WILLMAR — Dave Genz discovered the importance of mobility on the ice more than 35 years ago and got himself into the Fishing Hall of Fame for how he revolutionized ice fishing by creating products allowing anglers to move, move and move.
No ice fishing season has seen more wanna-be Hall of Famers out on the ice in motion like this one.
“It’s been one of the weirdest, strangest seasons I’ve ever experienced,’’ said Brad Foshaug, Brad’s 71 Bait and Sports, Willmar.
This year’s ice fishing bite has been on and off like a traffic light, with fish biting one day and shutting down the next. The anglers who have done the best have definitely been those who have heeded the wisdom of the founder of Clam Outdoors and stayed mobile, searching for the fish, according to Foshaug and others who provide the bait and gear needed to catch up with them.
Green Lake has been one of the tougher lakes to figure out this year. There have been good walleye bites reported, but also days when they just don’t bite. One frustrated angler told Foshaug he watched what he roughly counted to be 50 walleyes fin by his underwater camera. Only one took the bait.
On Tuesday of this week, two other anglers stayed out all night on the lake and were rewarded. The walleye hit off and on through the night, they told Greg Melges, Mel’s Sporting Goods, Spicer.
Others are finding the fish too. Foshaug and Melges have both been busy scooping lots of minnows for anglers. “We’re selling a lot of bait,’’ said Melges. “To me that means they’re catching fish.’’
They’re starting to spear them too. Along with buckets of minnows, more decoys are going out of the doors at Pete’s Surplus near New London. The dark house anglers reported earlier this week that the northern pike are starting to move.
The northern have been active on Koronis Lake, which has proved to be one of the more consistent lakes this season for both spearing an angling. The walleye bite has been decent on Koronis and more consistent than in many other lakes, said Dave Coahran, fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Spicer.
But without a doubt, it’s the opportunity to spear northern that is bringing most people to Koronis. There were more spearing houses than angling houses on the lake when the Spicer fisheries staff conducted its annual fish house survey in mid-January.
Koronis has also produced crappies. Norway and Diamond put out good numbers of crappies in December, said Coahran. Action on Norway has slowed down, but Diamond still holds a good population, but sorting is needed, he added.
More anglers are turning their attention to crappies as walleye action naturally slows at this point of the winter. Foot Lake in Willmar has been a good producer, and anglers are nailing perch as well. Lake Andrew has been a bust.
No lake has produced crappies this season like Lac qui Parle. It’s been seeing one of its best crappie bites ever, according to Chris Domeier, fisheries supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Ortonville.
He’s not surprised by the success. Gill nets pulled by DNR crews earlier showed that the lake held a bumper crop of crappies.
Yet Domeier also knows the conundrum many ice anglers are facing on their traditional waters this season. Gill nets pulled on Big Stone Lake show that the lake continues to hold a very large perch population, but this year’s bite has not been as active as last year’s.
Big Stone Lake anglers have reported seeing lots of perch on cameras and electronics, but they are not always hungry. Domeier said it appears they are feeding on an abundance of zooplankton. His advice to anglers: Be mobile and work to find the fish, because when you do hit them right the action can be furious.
It also pays to come late. Whether it’s Diamond Lake or Lac qui Parle, the crappie bite is best right at sundown and for an hour or two after.
The night hours are best for walleye too. Like elsewhere, walleye fishing has slowed on Lake Minnewaska, but anglers are still catching them in the night hours, according to Larry Jensen, Minnewaska Bait of Starbuck.
Sunfish and crappies are biting on the Glenwood end of the lake, and many anglers there are also setting out tip ups for northern pike, he added.
There’s good news no matter the lake or fish you might want to target. There’s good ice on all of the area lakes, with anywhere from 16-inches to 21-inches, and no snow. Mobility is not an issue.
Whether you rely on one of the portable houses developed by Genz some 35 years ago, or one of the more comfortable, wheeled Ice Castle houses developed Jeff Drexler of Montevideo some 16 years ago, you can join the parade moving in search of the fish.