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Walleyes still going on many lakes

Alexandria graduate Evan Eigen holds up a 28-inch walleye he caught through the ice on Lake L’Homme Dieu in 2012. Eigen released the fish after the photo. (Contributed)

Anglers who long for that first solid freeze on area lakes were lucky this season in that they didn’t have to show much patience before getting out on the ice.

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The cold snap that hit Minnesota over the past month made for some early ice across the Douglas County area. In turn, anglers have been able to go after walleyes when the bite has been good.

“It’s been a good start,” Dana Freese of Christopherson Bait in Alexandria said. “This is more of a traditional start, the way you remember that winters are supposed to be with people ice fishing before Thanksgiving and good ice conditions before Christmas. What’s happened the last few years is that the good walleye bite is practically over by the time guys can get out there.”

The early freeze has meant a lot of nice walleyes being caught already this year.

“Just in general, it’s been really good,” Freese said. “The bigger lakes in the area especially are putting out walleyes…there’s not a lot of truly gigantic fish in the area, but the bite’s been pretty good, so guys are catching a few of those seven, eight pounders.”

Fishing is always a day-to-day thing with weather conditions having an influence on the bite. The recent sub-zero temperatures slowed things down a little bit and anglers who can be on the ice during a warm up should be there.

“Some guys have a spot where the fish like to be when [it gets cold] like that and they do OK,” Freese said. “But for the most part, it slowed down when it was cold and then picked back up when it warmed up. That’s typically the trend in winter.”

Anglers are still finding fish along the edge of weeds. Jigging spoons like a Swedish Pimple or a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon are popular this time of year. Anglers will often tear off the head of a fathead minnow and tip that on the end of their spoon. Shiner minnows are also popular on teardrops under a rattle wheel.

“Most of the guys are fishing just outside of the weeds,” Freese said. “On a lake like Ida or Miltona, that might be 18-23 feet. On a different lake, a shallower lake with a little darker water, that might be 10 to 14 feet.”

Time of day will also make a difference with the early morning and evenings generally being the best times to target walleyes. Anglers still have some time between Christmas and the New Year to take advantage of the walleye bite before the normal lull in January kicks in.

“For whatever reason they just get hard to find and the fishing in our area slows down,” Freese said. “In January sometimes if the full moon is right, you might have a few days where a lot of guys are catching some bigger walleyes and then the bite kind of quits until almost the time that is closes. Then it perks up again.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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