Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

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

Jan. 22, 2001

It's been a good season for ice fishing

The ice has been good, the fishing has been good, the weather has been good, and the season started when it should. Count all of those up and you get ice anglers with a little extra jig in their jiggle sticks and a little extra flip in their pails.

Compared to the last few years, when ice came to our lakes very late in the season and ice conditions throughout those seasons were questionable, this season has been a pail flipper's dream.

Anglers took to the ice in early December, survived a little cold weather, but did get some darn good early season ice fishing in before the crowds hit the lakes and the bite, especially for walleye, slowed down.

Reports coming from our area lakes have been consistent for most of the season. They have indicated the fishing has been good and the lakes busy. Howard, Dog, Winsted, Collinwood, Waconia, Swede, and Swan have all produced fish. Those have been the lakes consistently mentioned by anglers and those who sell bait.

A few other lakes, I'm sure, could also be thrown into the good fishing category. But, their names remain silent with a special note that ice anglers are a tight-lipped group and that news on a hot lake can travel faster than a northern passing through a spear hole.

As you can see by the photos in this week's column, a good share of lunkers have also come off our area lakes this winter. Maybe the nicest of the season this week, a three-plus pound crappie, caught by Charlie Radtke of Winsted. Some big walleyes off Howard and northerns from several different lakes in the six-pound-and-over range were not uncommon.

Factoring in competition, ice fishing success in the number of fish caught and the size of those fish, and lastly, ice conditions, the fishing season has been a good one.

The only negative so far, as in other years, has been fish house vandalism. No matter what anglers and law enforcement do to try and prevent it, it happens. This year, lakes like Ann and Little Waverly were particularly hard hit.

The risk of vandalism seems to be the trade-off for the comfort of fishing in a big non-portable house.

Moving on, I wanted to inform you that ice fishing has been pretty good this year in order to get you thinking about how we can keep it that way. Reduced bag limits, more enforcement, tougher penalties, and the conservation of our resources in general all need to be considered. Get involved and share your ideas and opinions with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

When it comes to fishing, their goal, as yours should be, is to make it better for all of us.

Joe's Sport Shop in Howard Lake reported: The action has slowed down a bit in the last week or so on Collinwood and a few other lakes. Howard is still producing panfish on the north end and some good-sized northern pike.

Lil' Angies Bait and Tackle at the Treasure Hunt near Lester Prairie reported: A lot of anglers have been coming through.

Winsted has been the hot lake with crappies and northern pike coming off in good numbers. Sucker minnows have been the choice for northerns.

Howard is still giving up panfish and northerns with a few evening walleyes mixed in, and the evening walleye bite on Waconia has been good.

Lil' Angies added that a few anglers have been heading to Minnetonka for sunfish,and the sunfish bite on the western bays may be good.

Outdoor notes

­ For good ice fishing at this time of year, use light tackle and be mobile. Always fish with fresh bait and don't shy away from trying a spot away from the crowd.

­ The walleye and northern pike season ends Feb. 18.

­ The Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club has set the date for its annual fishing derby Sat., Feb. 10, on Howard Lake. The grand prize for this year's raffle is a deluxe King Crow fish house on wheels. Tickets are available from Joe's Sport Shop or from club members.

­ The 2001 Minnesota Fishing Regulations Handbook is out and available at area bait shops.

­ The 2001 Minnesota fishing opener is set for Sat., May 12.

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