Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

January 18, 1999

Travel getting tough on area lakes

The ice is getting thicker, the snow on top of it is getting deeper, and the crappies still aren't biting.

Ice conditions on our area lakes are good, with 18 or more inches of ice. However, recent snowfalls and the increasing amount of snow, have made travel on the lakes much more difficult than last week.

At this time, unless a road has been plowed, driving on the lakes is really getting tough, even in a four wheel drive. In any case, the snow and travel conditions will affect the fishing for the time being.

When the fishing is a bit slow like it has been so far this year, anglers need to be more mobile in their efforts to catch fish. The amount of snow we have definitely limits that mobility. Also, if the snow keeps coming down like it has been, anglers will have a hard time moving their houses just a few yards and, eventually, may have a very hard time getting them off the lakes.

The only benefit from the snow on the lakes goes to the die hard, workhorse ice anglers who will fight through the conditions to catch fish. When they eventually find an out of the way spot where the fish are biting, they probably won't have to worry about much competition.

Moving on from getting to a spot to fish, to actually drilling a hole and throwing a few fish in the pail - the fishing has been slow and my pail has stayed empty. A few adventures in search of crappies on Howard Lake have produced nothing more than small perch. The next time I head out, I plan on fishing for crappies in 10 to 14 feet of water. I've tried deep holes, 30 to 35 feet, that have produced before, but haven't had any luck.

One angler I spoke with said he was told that anglers on a few lakes have been getting some fish in very shallow water. That may be the trick. It's been a different kind of year and on Howard the fish aren't biting in deep water anyway.

Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake reported: The fishing activity has been a bit slow. It's getting tougher to get around on the lakes and the fishing, especially for panfish, has been slow. Howard is producing a few northerns, and some nice walleyes and anglers on Buffalo Lake have been getting a few crappies.

Other reports have local anglers heading to Mille Lacs doing very well on perch and walleye, and those heading out for extended trips to Lake of the Woods coming back with limits or nothing at all.

'Current Conditions' now available on DNR web site

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has added "Current Conditions" as a new feature of the DNR Web site.

These Web pages offer current weather information of special interest to Minnesota's winter recreation enthusiasts. Site visitors can check hourly weather reports for more than 70 cities in Minnesota.

Reports include current conditions as well as a two-day forecast and daily almanac information such as record highs, lows, precipitation and sunrise/sunset times.

Skiers and snowmobilers may be especially interested in the weekly snow depth and trail condition reports. This may be accessed through the Web site, which has a link to the DNR Web site.

These conditions are updated every Thursday for more than 100 trails throughout the state, just in time for making weekend plans.

Individual trail information includes timely information such as trail base coat inches, last grooming and general conditions, and more basic information such as number of trail miles, skiing difficulty level, directions to the trail head, and parking and contact information.

Snowmobile regulations and ski pass information are linked off these pages and some trail maps are available in digital format.

Outdoor notes

  • For links to the DNR's Website or other great outdoor related Websites and all kinds of local outdoor information, visit this newspaper on the Web at
  • The Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club will hold their 53rd annual Fishing Derby on Howard Lake, Sat. , Feb. 13, from 2 to 4 p.m. The grand prize in the drawing is a deluxe 6 1/2 x 12 King Crow fish house on wheels. Tickets are available from club members or at Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake. The fishhouse is also on display at Joe's.
  • The Winsted Sportsmen's Club will be holding their annual He/She Mixer at the Blue Note in Winsted on Friday, Feb. 12. Look for details on the He/She Mixer in this column in the upcoming weeks.
  • If you plan on feeding wildlife this winter, please continue your feeding efforts in the location where you started throughout the winter. If animals begin using the food source they may become dependent on it for the rest of the winter.
  • Fishhouse safety is something ice anglers seldom read about or really take a close look at. A few important things you can do to make your fish house more safe is to keep your stove or heating source clean and in good working order and keep your propane tank outside of the house.
  • Making sure your house is well ventilated is another good idea.
  • It has been a snowy January. Snowmobilers have been out in force and last week, I saw a few cross county skiers enjoying a scenic and quiet jaunt on the Crow River.

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