Weather rules in winter. At least it tries to!
I was on my annual winter ice fishing trip to Minnesota two years ago when a windless snowfall dropped a silent 10 to 12 inches of snow on our Northwoods camp. Beautiful it was!
Travel? Not so beautiful.
I had hooked up with Minnesota guide Jeff Sundin, who knows the fish-filled waters of the area near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, as well as anyone, for the day’s fishing. Our ambitions were fairly big—to catch a mix of eaters and bull bluegill, the former for a meal, the latter for photos. Our target lake, however, was small.
The area is loaded with superb destination waters including Pokegama, Bowstring, Bass Lake, and Winnibigoshish. But Jeff picked out one of the countless “sleeper” waters in the area, a somewhat secluded lake of roughly 100 acres.
We parked Jeff’s truck at the top of a hill and loaded his sled, knowing we would have no chance of getting back up if we tried to drive down to the lake, as we had done on other waters that week prior to the snow.
These were sled-dog conditions, and we were the dogs! The going wasn’t easy as we trudged downhill and headed toward Jeff’s target zone, a 12- to 18-foot hole where he believed the bull ‘gills had holed up.
We cut about 18 holes and put our flasher sonar units to work. We found fish quickly, but the action was slower than we would have liked—especially after all the legwork we had put in. A half hour passed.
Suddenly, the fish awoke. The action began with red-ear sunfish and a few small bluegill. Then Jeff pulled up a 10 incher, and I slid a couple of 9-inch-plus fish through the holes.
A variety of bait combinations drew strikes. The best was a Lindy Frostee jigging spoon tipped with three wax worms.
The action remained steady for several hours. Then Jeff pulled up stakes and cut a bunch of new holes 150 yards away.
“Here they are,” he called.
When I reached him, I found that “they” were not the bull bluegill we had expected but slab-sided crappie not at all shy about the bite.
We loaded our sled an hour later and began the long trek back to the truck. Yes, we still had that tall hill to climb to reach the truck, but at least the day’s mixed bag had put a bounce in our snow boots!