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2020 Detroit Lakes-Pelican Rapids Fishing Reports - Lake Conditions


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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…but what does it mean for our local lakes and the yearly tradition of fishing out of our hard sided fish houses during Christmas?  In our area we received a fair amount of snow from 3-8 inches this past weekend and after the storm passed it brought us lots of arctic air that we needed prior sadly.  Snow on the ground is a good thing, it helps reflect the suns energy and stops the ground from heating up especially along shorelines and keeps our ambient temperatures colder but on the other hand, it has put a blanket on top of the ice preventing the cold temps from forming as thick of ice as possible.  With that extra weight on top of the ice it is and will potentially cause flooding and slush pockets on top of our ice.

I was on a lake Friday after the warmup and there were lots of sketchy spots from the warmup especially near any standing weeds.  Those weeds absorbed the suns heat and started making the ice melt and it looked a lot like late ice but in December.  Saturday, the temps dropped allowing our ice to freeze and heal itself but sadly it didn’t have enough time to heal itself completely and that may hurt us in the long run of the season.

Ice on the lake is not a ridged structure that many people think it is but, it’s a lot like a trampoline.  As you add weight on top of the ice it sinks down a little bit and as the ice sinks down it cracks slightly on the bottom side as it stretches.  As more and more weight push down from above any crack or hole that is drilled starts flooding the area.  This causes anyone using the lakes either for fishing or snowmobiling headaches all year long.  Hopefully we had enough wind during the storm Sunday night and Monday to blow the snow off the ice so it can keep forming.

Now that we have snow covered ice it is harder to see the color of the ice and make sure we always have safe ice underneath us.  As people start exploring more and more lakes it becomes more important to check the ice as frequent as possible because we can no longer see that the ice looks different as we are walking.  Another concern of mine with snow covering the ice are kids and snowmobiles.  I know when I was young, I couldn’t wait to get our snowmobiles onto the lake to drive them.  Snowmobiles will need approximately 6 inches of ice and I have only seen one lake that had that prior to this storm. 

I have gotten multiple messages asking about when I think people can get their permanent shacks out onto the ice and my response is not this weekend.  Will you see someone driving a lightweight spear shack out with a four-wheeler this weekend, probably.  Do I think it’s a safe task, no.  I respect ice and if you are jumping at the bit to get out, I strongly suggest walking your whole route on the ice drilling holes every hundred feet and measuring the thickness.  I have an ice scoop that has the inches on the side so I can measure the ice easily and I measure ice at EVERY hole along my route.  If I have enough ice I go back and get my rig to bring it out and I drive next to each hole I drilled as I proceed.  Watch your water level in your hole as you drive extremely slowly and see if the ice is sinking or floating with your extra weight on the ice.  If along your route you see the ice is now flooding, I strongly suggest turning around and waiting to do it another day.  If you have “head space” between the ice and water level in your hole you are good to keep proceeding.

When you get near your destination and you disconnect your fish house drive a distance away and park your four-wheeler or snowmobile.  Remember the more things you have in a smaller area the more that trampoline sinks in the water and by parking a reasonable distance away helps spread your weight out better preventing the area from flooding.

I was able to get out Friday afternoon and Saturday before the storm hit.  Fishing pressure both days were a lot higher than the weekend before and I only expect it to get tougher, so it made fishing tougher to narrow down the bite.  The fish were out on the flats roaming last weekend and this weekend a guy next to me had forward facing sonar unit and we were watching the fish holding tight to weeds and only coming out in certain areas kind of like deer trails leading to a field.  When we found those “trails” we would drill our holes in a tight area, and we had great results.  If it slowed down, we would hold tight, and another batch of fish would cycle through our area making it very fun to set up and stay comfortable while fishing.

Tungsten jigs were the ticket this weekend but some people next to us were having luck with small spoons.  Spoons were getting less numbers, but the fish were better quality where tungsten’s were getting more fish, but the average tended to be on the lower side.  I had to force myself to experiment with other color plastics this weekend because I ran out of white and I was having luck with Red, Orange, and Black but also heard blue was working great also. 

Sadly, I will not be on the ice again till the 18th of December.  This upcoming weekend the Fargo Ice Fishing Show is going on and I will be in the Ice Fishing Minnesota booth the whole weekend.

 

Stay safe on the ice!

Cody J. Hill

Ice Fishing Minnesota

CHill Guide Service
www.chillguideservice.com

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Happy New Years!  We have received a lot of snow throughout the area and the extra snow cover has changed up fishing and travel on the lakes.  As a result of our heavy snow, it has slowed down the formation of ice on our lakes and even though some areas were thirty below zero we didn’t form that much new ice, sadly.  This has been a leading factor to some Rangers and pickups going through the ice on local lakes.  I have been hearing mixed reports of some lakes having some slush, I have not seen it personally yet.  I’m also hearing reports that some lakes will have 12-14 inches of ice and a few hundred yards away they have 8-9 inches.

Fishing reports have been also hit and miss due to people getting out due to the snow.  A few bigger lakes have some nice roads plowed because a few guides are running rental shacks on them.  On Sunday when I was fishing a group came through and started drilling holes on the road, fished for 10-15 minutes then moved further down the road and did the same.  People are kind enough to plow roads please respect the road by not drilling holes on it or setting your house up on the road.  Last year I kept up a few roads and when people did this it caused nothing but headaches for plowing and running the risk of breaking equipment due to laziness.

Walleye bite was going right before the new years and the bite also went through the day with guys picking up a limit or two of walleyes during the day in their permeant shacks.  Breaks on the edges of flats with rock bottoms seemed to be the ticket and you didn’t need to be extremely deep with some being in that 12-15 feet range.  After New Years I’m hearing some people struggling but I have a feeling they slid out into deeper water and holes because I’m seeing them getting caught in basins while crappie fishing.  Spoons tipped with fat heads jigging on or near bottom produced well with dead stick rods with minnows about a foot from bottom helped with a curious but hesitant fish.

Panfish bite has been steady to slowly picking up depending on if you are fishing shallow/weeds or basins.  With the snowfall weeds are going to start die and that will cause a drop in the oxygen level in the shallows.  As a result, the fish will slide into deeper water chasing food and more stable oxygen.  I had a great trip over the weekend fishing a deeper basin and all our fish were surprisingly the bottom five feet.  I went back to the same spot a few days later and our first five fish were five different species.  I had luck with jigging baits like the Kender T-Rip or Eurotackle Z-Viber Micro in Wonder Bread colors and when the fish seemed not as aggressive, I switched to a 4 mm tungsten jig tipped with a Panfish Pirate plastic in a Ripper or Zoid in pink or white tipped with one wax worm.  Crappies were aggressive but you had to keep jigging/twitching your jig the whole time and when they would bite, they would hold onto your jig and not swim away so you needed to focus on your rod tip to watch for the bite and before you would jig slightly lift your rod to see if you had extra weight from a fish.  When the bite got extremely tough, we had best luck with a 4 mm or downgrading to a 3 mm tungsten with a plain Ripper plastic no bait.  The second trip I set up a plain minnow down where the fish were coming through hoping for action but only picked up small pike instead.

I had customers that used their own rods on a trip, and I want to bring up a topic that most might not think makes a difference but with the invasion of zebra muscles on a lot of our lakes I think it is making a difference.  The type of line you use, and the thickness makes a difference.  I had 3 people in one house, and we got 18 very nice crappies.  Two of the three people were using 3-pound test fluorocarbon line and they caught 15 fish and the person using 6-pound mono caught three.  The person who caught three was using the same exact lure as the rest of us and in the same portable fish house so the only thing we can think is that the line thickness was the ultimate deciding factor.  I run 100% fluorocarbon line because of the visibility factor and in my opinion its worth the added price to put quality line on a rod.  The other thing I have noticed with fluorocarbon is that it seems to be stronger than monofilament and this allows me to downsize my line thickness by one to two and sometimes three pounds and it helps with a panfish bite allowing me to feel those light bites. 

I think we are in the heart of our traditional winter patterns and fishing will only be picking up in the next few weeks and this will benefit a lot of us since they will be in our normal winter spots going forward.  Get away from the crowds and don’t be afraid to change things up with colors/plastics/types of lures being used especially in a group in a house.


Take care,

Cody Hill

Ice Fishing Minnesota
CHill Guide Service
www.chillguideservice.com

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Winter has shown us this past weekend that Mother Nature is not to be taken lightly.  Ice fishing is my favorite time of the year to fish but this past weekend it was downright deadly at times and I had to help rescue people on the lake that had gotten themselves into a bad situation.  A lot of the lakes in the area have some roads plowed but there is a lot of slush forming from the extra weight of the snowbanks which can make it treacherous trying to get off the road and away from the crowds.

 

Fishing this past weekend was mixed results.  You either did amazing or it was poor depending on if the fish were under you or not.  Due to the weather the fish were very lethargic so if you could get on top of a school they didn’t move far.  The weather this upcoming week looks promising, and I have a feeling the bite will be amazing.

 

Walleye bite was surprisingly better in some deeper basins or holes then some fishing sharp breaks near shorelines.  The typical One-Two punch of a spoon tipped with a minnow head jigging near bottom teamed with a bobber rod with a small sucker or shiner near bottom was working great.  Due to the snow cover anything with glow and a rattle will not hurt you for attracting fish to your lures. If you are venturing out focus on your February spots and I would start searching those areas first.  Night bite was good for those willing to stay out past dark and hunker down for the late night.

 

Crappie bite this weekend was either amazing or you did poor.  Crappies were in the beginning of the week were weed edges and flats, but some are hitting the basins on the lakes I heard from, but they didn’t want to move.  We watched a school for almost 5 hours sitting in a spot we couldn’t fish and would not leave the spot.  If you got on top of those schools, you had an amazing day because they didn’t want to swim too far off from their original location.  In one situation nothing was on the graph but drilled a new hole 10 feet away and the hole was loaded when the transducer was dropped down.  Glow tungsten’s tipped with a soft plastic and a wax worm for scent seemed to do well for neutral to aggressive fish.  A small jigging Rap style lure worked great for calling fish into your area and would get the aggressive fish to commit.  Having a bobber rod with a vertical jig or a small glow hook tipped with a fathead minnow hooked behind the dorsal fin set 4-7 feet above bottom is a great second line option.

 

Good luck and stay safe out there.  For those venturing out and concerned about lake travel don’t be afraid to talk to stop in and talk to our amazing bait shops in our area and they will have a great feel for what travel is like on most lakes.

 

Cody Hill
CHill Guide Service
www.chillguideservice.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

This year has been a head scratcher and has me using the ION searching for fish but here’s what I have found so far.  We are finding perch in normal walleye spots.  We are finding walleyes in our normal crappie holes.  Oh, and we cannot forget we are finding bluegills roaming in thirty feet of water suspended from 5 feet below the ice to bottom.  Crappies…when I pattern them, I’ll give an update.

 

This past weekend I went searching for crappies and hit multiple holes that I normally find them at and what I’m finding is 10-20 ice castles on top of each hole and in years past most holes I fished didn’t have a fish house.  When I searched, we only found crappies in one hole, but the slush was six to eight inches deep and the crappies we did find were less than 8 inches long with a few bigger ones mixed in roaming around which didn’t make it worthwhile to stay.

Adversity has been a common phrase in the last few years, so we decided to switch lakes to a lake I haven’t fished in over a month but figured we aren’t getting them where we currently are so what do we have to lose?  Drilled one hole to check depth and we had over 12 feet of fish swimming below us.  Last year when I fished this little lake 80-90% of your catch was crappies with a nice array of age classes so we got excited.  After fishing for nearly 5 hours, we had caught two crappies out of a hundred plus fish.  The blue gill bite was amazing and kept us active till we decided to call it a day.

 

With that many fish down there, we were able to play with plastics and colors to answer that magical question ‘Does color make a difference?’ and I can honestly say some colors it didn’t matter and some it did.  I have 24 colors to pick from in my Panfish Pirate Treasure Chest and my typical colors are white, green, and pink but we tried black, red, yellow, blue, and purple.  The surprise for us was purple and we were really impressed with the performance of that color.

What worked.  Jigs 4 mm or 5 mm tungsten jigs depending on plastic being used in any glow color and FYI glow mattered.  Soft plastic Zoid was our go to style with Ripper a close second and Bivy Bug taking up third but we didn’t fish it till the end of the day and we had better luck with the Bivy Bug with crappies.  We started with bait either wax worms or Euro Larva to build confidence in the fishermen but after the confidence in using plastics the majority were caught strictly on soft plastics alone.  We were in basins/flats off of mid lake shallow sunken islands and large shallow flats in 22-32 feet of water.  Bluegills were in huge schools but if you came to a hole that had solo high marks, they were usually crappies but because the bluegills were so aggressive if you didn’t get the high mark your graph was now full of bluegills and they would push the crappies away so we would leave a hole full of fish trying to find solo marks knowing they were crappies.  When fishing that deep a very sensitive, light tipped action, rod makes the difference.  We were using the Tuned Up Custom Rods Precision Noodle and that rod tip allowed us to see the bite and see the negative bite (bit coming from beneath lifting the jig up) where a heavier action rod we would have missed most of the bites.

 

Ice conditions were always changing on the bigger lakes with lots of vehicle traffic.  People are driving 20-30 mph going across the ice and the wave action is causing stress fractures and causing roads to flood.  Slush pockets are still forming even away from the crowds.  So be careful if you are busting your own trail.  Community holes are getting slushy because people are cramming in so tight to another fish house flooding the area.  I arrived to ours on Friday night and a new house was so close to my tongue I couldn’t have hooked up to my fish house if I had wanted to move.

 

Stay safe and enjoy the sport!

 

Cody Hill
CHill Guide Service
www.chillguideservice.com

Ice Fishing Minnesota

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • monstermoose78
      Da fishing hole in little falls!! We could have met for lunch
    • JerkinLips
      I've been just using a plain red #4 Gatsuma hook on a 3 foot fluorocarbon leader this winter.  Pike suckers are another option for live bait if you can't find chubs or rainbows. Not a good sign for my trip up next week.  Wonder why it is so difficult to find bait up there this winter.  Seems like a lot more people are ice fishing this year.  Guess I will have to check all 3 bait stores starting at Lucky Seven.  Hope I don't have to drive to Ely.
    • Rick G
      Finding most of my better late January fish out deeper than I was earlier this month. With the snow cover and thicker ice we have on most of our area lakes, a lot of the shallow green weeds are starting to die off or already have died off.  With conditions getting tough in the shallows on some lakes, this will push the fish a bit deeper looking for food and more comfortable habitat.   Tricked this beauty and a few of his buddies into biting today.
    • Wanderer
      Not much.  I set the house on the edge of some but it seems the slush is just under the drifts.  It’s all hard packed out here.  Maybe a foot of snow in the drifts.   The wife had epic calamity while I was out drilling in the basin.  She had a pike rush and wound up on the losing end of a “whale” that got into her rattle reel and… her favorite rod!   I got a text:     Now ISO new favorite rod.
    • smurfy
      there are ALOT of them snot rockets in there!!!!!! matter of fact long before this new regulation came along, bowstring and sand lake thats attached via river had a 9 fish pike limit.   good luch chasing crappies....there nice ones iffin ya can find them.
    • leech~~
      Any slush around? 
    • Wanderer
      Bowstring.  All new turf for us.  Don’t even know what colors work best out here so starting from scratch.  It’s clear water though we’re starting with the standards.   Didn’t get a lot of advice at the resort but they had a couple other things going on so kinda distracted I guess.   2 more snot rockets at pizza time.
    • leech~~
      So where did you end up going? 
    • CigarGuy
      Hi Chad, everytime I go down to the mailbox, I look for your house out there. By the looks of your driveway, looks likes you haven't been up most of the winter, must be enjoying Colorado! When I was out fishing last week, there were some people out fishing near Metsa's point. Seems like when I do see people out on this end, they're usually around that area. I'll be sure to stop by!
    • Wanderer
      only been set up an hour!  High standards! 😄   2 perch and 1 pike so far though.  All small but some action anyway.  Once this pizza is done I’m going looking for crappies.
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