Lake of the Woods

The Lake of the Woods area escaped the worst of the heavy snow that’s wreaking havoc on access and fishing conditions on many Minnesota lakes, and fishing reports are good. According to Lake of the Woods Tourism, anglers are catching a “nice mix” of saugers and walleyes, with some trophy walleyes, jumbo perch, eelpout, pike, tullibees and a surprising number of incidental sturgeon catches being reported, as well. During a typical day, there are flurries of activity mixed with some slower time, Lake of the Woods Tourism said. Best action is in 25 to 32 feet of water, and numerous ice roads are open, many allowing ¾-ton trucks with wheel houses, but anglers should check ahead with resorts and ice road operators for the latest conditions in the areas they plan to fish.

Up at the Northwest Angle, fishing is excellent with a mix of walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch, pike and eelpout, Lake of the Woods Tourism said. With over a foot of snow, snowmobile trails from the south end of the lake to the Angle are being groomed, according to Lake of the Woods Tourism.

Devils Lake

The perch and walleye photos continue to come in from area guide services so there definitely are fish to be had for anglers who are in the right place at the right time. Some big walleyes, including fish up to 31½ inches, also have been reported. One angler who fished deeper water said he had no trouble catching perch and walleyes in 20 to 25 feet of water, but most of them were too small to keep so he left the area and switched gears and fished for pike. In his experience, at least, the number of pike he caught was down but the size made up for it, with fish up to 40½ inches hitting smelt or herring fished below tip-ups in 6 to 10 feet of water.

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Upper Red Lake

It’s been a nightmarish few days with the heavy snow that fell in the recent late December storm, and resorts and anglers alike have battled with slush. In some cases, private wheelhouse owners were stranded until conditions improved enough for resorts to get them plowed out.

The heavy snow weighs down the ice, forcing water up through cracks and ice fishing holes, creating slush under the snow.

West Wind Resort in Waskish, Minn., on Wednesday, Jan. 1, reported it was able to move all of its rentals to fresh spots and was working to find new places to park wheelhouses. “Spots will be limited, and they will without a doubt flood. There’s nothing we can do about it,” the resort said on its Facebook page. “So be prepared to see some water.”

Given the conditions, anglers should try to keep the weight down and use common sense, the resort advises. Half-ton pickups and single-axle wheeled houses will flood less than 1-ton trucks pulling 32-foot houses with two slide-out panels. Space for wheeled houses will be limited, and anglers should call ahead to whatever resort they plan to access for the latest updates.

Jonny Petrowske, of Red Lake Remote Sleepers, who shuttles anglers to his rental houses in a tracked vehicle, said in a Facebook post that he was able to keep going throughout the storm without canceling any reservations.

As for the fishing, the bite has been slow with the unstable weather, Petrowske said.

Bemidji area

Heavy snow has created severe slush conditions on many Bemidji-area lakes, and it will take an extended period of below zero temperatures before the slush freezes and conditions improve, said Paul Nelson of Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Fishing was good before the recent snowstorm, Nelson said, but access for vehicle traffic now will be limited to plowed roads because of the extreme slush conditions.

Area trails update

  • Grand Forks Greenway: Snow is deep and fluffy, so grooming took longer than usual, staff reported on the Greenway Facebook page. Mechanical problems before New Year’s delayed grooming parts of the trail, but plans were in the works to finish grooming beginning Wednesday, Jan. 1, according to the Greenway Facebook page.

  • Turtle River State Park, N.D.: The Fisher-Timber trail is packed and tracked for cross-country skiing and Whitetail Trail is packed for hiking, the park said on its Facebook page.

  • Itasca State Park, Minn.: Very good skiing conditions with a 3- to 5-inch base; very good snowmobiling conditions with a 4-inch base; local snow depth 20 inches.

  • Lake Bemidji State Park: Excellent skiing conditions with a 5-inch base; very good snowmobiling conditions with a 5-inch base; local snow depth 23 inches.

  • Lake Bronson State Park, Minn.: Poor skiing and snowmobiling conditions; local snow depth 11 inches.

  • Old Mill State Park: Fair snowmobiling conditions with a 4-inch base; no ski trail; local snow depth 13 inches.

-- Herald staff reports