Within short driving distance of my home in western Minnesota are a couple top ice-fishing destinations, particularly for those anglers who like chasing perch and crappies.
Here is a look at those two destinations and some tips for finding winter success this season.
Early-ice Big Stone perch
Big Stone Lake located on the Minnesota and South Dakota border is a 26-mile long, 12,610-acre border water lake that has a booming perch fishery that offers anglers a top winter fishing option.
Artie Arndt is an Ortonville native and local bait shop owner who operates a winter fish house rental business on Big Stone, a business that caters to perch anglers.
“Our big bluegills merit attention, and last winter lots of walleyes were caught, but the perch are still king on Big Stone,” Arndt said when asked about winter fishing and this year’s outlook. “And, the DNR saw a historic record number of perch and bluegills in this year’s test nets.
“The great fishing often happens during the season’s first half. We still have good fishing later, but it can get tougher with more snow and pressure.”
Arndt and his guides stay on the move constantly looking for the perch schools that roam the lake’s expansive basin.
“We spend most of our time on the lake’s south end, with the real key moving with the fish as they move,” Arndt said.
Jigging spoons and other jigging baits will catch fish, but Arndt says tungsten jigs and spikes are key baits most days.
“Day in and day out, it’s hard to beat tungsten tipped with spikes,” he offered. “Our waters are clear, and that small profile and live bait combination is hard to beat.”
Information on fish house rentals and Big Stone fishing can be had by calling Arndt at (320) 839-2480. Also, visit www.bigstonelake.com for more information on the Big Stone area.
Mid-winter Alexandria crappies
Lots of lakes in the Alexandria area have very good crappie populations.
Big lakes like Ida, Reno, and the L’Homme Dieu chain host good crappie numbers. Many smaller area lakes offer very good winter crappie fishing too.
This angler/author has spent considerable time chasing ice crappies in the area and the past couple winters rank among the best in recent memory for crappie fishing success.
Mid-winter crappies in many lakes often roam deep basins searching for food. Lots of the basin areas I fish are in the 20-to-35 foot depth ranges. Other lakes, however, have deeper basins where crappies can be found.
While winter crappies do roam, they often stay in the same general basin areas. Anglers can often return to productive areas they found on prior trips, or in prior winters, and then drill holes to pinpoint fish.
Drilling holes and using winter sonar is important to finding crappie-holding areas, but sonar also becomes very important once basin crappies are located. Sonar allows anglers to see bottom, bait, and any fish approaching it.
This is especially important when fishing crappies as these fish are notorious for suspending in the water column and coming through at various depths. Being able to see fish on sonar allows for quick bait adjustments to keep your offering at the fish’s level.
I have been using the FLX-20 Vexilar flasher with excellent success, as it has all the features I need, is easy to use, and does a great job of showing crappies and my baits.
The final component for catching crappies is choosing the right bait presentations. Small jigging spoons tipped with waxworms and small tungsten jigs fished on light line and tipped with panfish plastics will often lead to winter crappie success.
If you are considering a trip to the Alexandria area this winter to sample the area’s good fishing, the following two websites offer information on the area, as well as regular fishing reports: www.explorealex.com and www.alexandriamn.org.
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s School of Fish. Visit Fishing the Midwest at www.fishingthemidwest.com to see more from Mike.