|"The Bait Shop"|
...(12-1)The walleye season on Mille Lacs is now OPEN!.
After several days of unseasonably warm weather and an unneeded rainfall, the ice conditions on Mille Lacs have been under constant change. Some of the accesses have become sloppy, some have closed for the season and others are still decent. The ice on the main lake is still "thick" by most people's standards, but the integrity has been compromised in some areas by the surface water draining/seeping through. This is often called "candling" - a condition where surface water (often from snow melt) works its way through the column of ice into the water below. The surface water makes small, vertical paths from the top to bottom. The THICKNESS is not always impacted right away, but there are these small channels that can compromise the quality of the ice. You can notice that when you drill a hole, the ice may come out in chunks instead of the normal shavings. You may also find that if you stopped short of drilling completely through, the hole can begin to seep water. These instances don't necessarily signal "the end", rather a transition away from the "drive wherever you will" attitude back toward snowmobiles and ATV's and some limited vehicle traffic. We recommend that you do not travel on the ice in the dark. As always, check with your resort for the most current ice info in their area.
There has been a decent northern bite on Mille Lacs. 10-14 feet near the weed edges with suckers will provide the most action. We didn't see many folks chasing walleye this week - those who did agreed that much of the bite is still at first and last light and periodically throughout the night. Perch and tullibee are present, but the bite can be tough. Use a Hawger Spoon tipped with a waxie or spike for your best chance at either species. 28-32 feet over soft bottom is key.
Since our last Weekend Outlook, the Minnesota DNR has announced a "catch and release" season for Mille Lacs beginning with the May opener. Further restrictions are possible/likely but have not been confirmed as of today.
Some of you have encountered shortages of certain minnow species when you visited baitshops around the state again this season - we had some shortages in the Mille Lacs area on shiners for a while and more recently on "small" suckers. Some bait dealers have been trying to get the Minnesota Legislature to allow certified, disease-free baitfish import for several years now. To date, there has been enough pushback from the Minnesota DNR to stall any legislation. Simply put, our indigenous population of baitfish is not sufficient to supply Minnesota anglers, and access to “local” bait drops each year. Live bait isn’t something that can be replaced by plastic worms from Walmart. Minnesota spends millions of dollars each year to attract people to our water-resources – let’s keep ‘em fishing. We've asked our readers to contact their legislators in the past on various issues... we're asking again. If you don't know what to write, you can paste the text below. If you don't know who your Senator and Representative are, you can enter your address into the box in this link: Who represents me?. The bill should be introduced today (2-23-17).
There will be a “minnow import bill” introduced today. We’ve been working on this for years as a safe alternative to the dwindling population of indigenous baitfish (including, but not limited to shiners). The bill will include wording for “certified disease-free” baitfish/minnows, which would document the source of the baitfish to ONLY growers/producers/transporters that qualify and comply to specific health standards. Our native population of baitfish is not sufficient to supply Minnesota anglers, and access to “local” bait drops each year. Live bait isn’t something that can be replaced by plastic worms from Walmart. Minnesota spends millions of dollars each year to attract people to our water-resources – let’s keep ‘em fishing.
I ask that you support this bill during this session.
...(2-16)If the telephone is any indication, I'm pretty sure the sky is falling. We've fielded COUNTLESS calls from people who think the ice is shot on Mille Lacs. Not so. Mille Lacs has between 24 and 30 inches of decent ice. We understand that there have been some metro-area fishing contests that have been cancelled, along with a few people who insist on driving their vehicles where they shouldn't. We get that here sometimes too. There were a handful of anglers here on Mille Lacs that caused a certain amount of drama too. If you're concerned that you won't be able to get to your fish house this weekend, call your resort. Trust your resort... that's what you pay them for.
The walleye bite is still better at night than it is during the day - numerous people have moved in to 10 - 15 feet of water and continue to do well throughout the night. Small shiners on a rattle reel have been the ticket here. During the daylight we see most of the fish hitting in 23-30 feet on the deep gravel and on the mud flats. It's not the bite we had a few weeks back, but it's still worth the effort. Perch action is slow in general. Waxies or spikes on a Hawger Spoon work the best. Northern activity is better than we saw over the past few weeks - use big suckers in 10-14 feet.
Last night's DNR meeting that was supposed to shed some light on the "safe harvestable surplus" and potentially the regulations for the upcoming open-water walleye season was by most accounts, another dissappointment. No regulations were set, and while a few attendees may have left fascinated with some of the finer points of "spiney water fleas", most simply left dissappointed. Now we ALL wait... again.
...(2-10)We're enjoying a pretty good "night bite" on Mille Lacs right now. It usually starts a little before sunset and can go on throughout the night until an hour or so after sunrise. Most of these fish come on the rattle reels. Hang a whole minnow (shiner, walleye sucker) on a lightweight glow jig and wait for your "alarm clock"! The daytime bite is similar to last week. Here, you'll want to use a Slender Spoon, Tingler or Hawger Spoon tipped with a piece of a minnow. These daytime fish are more active on the mudflats than on the gravel. Try to get to a turn or an edge that hasn't had a million holes drilled on it. Good luck. Northern action continues to be spotty, but is a little better than the past few weeks. Use bigger suckers under your tip-ups in 10-14 feet.
The ice conditions are similar to how they've been for the last 2 weeks. With some warmer temperatures expected today and tomorrow, we can expect the ice to flex. Be sure to cross any cracks/heaves on a bridge.