Hardwater Happenings

Ice fishing action stellar despite balmy weather and thoughts of and early spring.

No doubt plenty of people across the North are praying for spring’s arrival, but serious ice fans know there are still adventures to be had on hard water.

Case in point: On North Dakota’s mighty Devils Lake, North American Fisherman confidante and veteran guide Jason Feldner reports yellow perch of cartoonish proportions are strapping on the feedbag as the days grow longer.

“Going into the full moon, we were getting solid numbers of 10- to 12.5 inchers, along with a few over 2 pounds,” he says. “The bite slowed down with the full moon, but should pick right back up as the phase changes.”

If icing perch of football proportions is on your to-do list, Feldner recommends 18- to 22-foot depths along main-lake shoreline breaks. His hot presentation has been a Lindy Tungsten Toad tipped with a pair of waxworms. “I thread one on, then run the hook through the second one’s head so it dangles temptingly,” he explains. Top jig colors vary every day, so he councils experimentation.

Feldner’s jig strokes are a study in conservatism. “I quiver my jig in on spot, at one level,” he says. “When a fish comes in and doesn’t hit the bait within 30 seconds, I slowly raise the jig.”

Portly perch aren’t the only game going on Devils Lake. The early morning walleye bite has been steady for folks “shimmy-shaking” spoons like Lindy’s Rattl’n Flyer in 7 to 10 feet of water along shore and on top of humps. Plus, pike of all sizes, including gators topping 40 inches, have been on a tear.

“Pike fishing has been great in shallow bays and along roadbeds,” he says. “We had a 40.5 incher hit a Rattl’n Flyer, and are getting numbers of fish in the 30-inch class.” Along with spoons, tip-ups baited with frozen herring are top pike producers.

Speaking of big pike, Minnesota’s share of Lake of the Woods is heating up as hulking giants stage in predictable places like the shoreline off Zippel Bay. Local resorter and guide Nick Painovich of Zippel Bay Resort reports a quarter of his guests are targeting pike, and enjoying banner action in depths of 10 to 15 feet between Zippel Gap and The Field. He recommends 8- to 10-inch sucker minnows under tip-ups, plus actively jigged Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoons, Darters and Slick Jigs.

Of course, Lake of the Woods is still kicking out walleyes and saugers as well. Another hardwater walleye hotspot continues to be Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago Chain, where ace guide Jason Muche reports big numbers of walleyes running 12 to 23 inches in length, with plenty from 3½ to 4 pounds and a few trophies over 8 pounds to boot. “The fish are staging in Lake Winnebago, within a mile or so of the river mouth,” he says. Depths of 16 to 18 feet continue to be good.

Nothing against the arrival of spring, but reports like these make me hope the ice lasts at least a few more weeks.

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