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Matt Johnson

Metro Area Minnesota Fishing Reports by Matt Johnson

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Matt Johnson

Water temps have dropped a bit in the Metro throughout the last few days. Mid 50s right now and this cold rain will probably drop them a little more... good news though (if anything weather-related is good) is that it's supposed to be dry tomorrow but the air temp will be 20 degrees colder than the water temp :)   Make sure to bundle-up!

My plan for tomorrow's opener is to slow things down a little and try to find pods of fish instead of going crazy flying from spot-to-spot. Seems like fish are moving around slower this week and they WILL bite but just need things a little slower. Live-bait rigs on the drift might be the ticket... although a main lake drift tomorrow could be a little quick in 20 mph winds.

The crappies should be active as they are in the midst of spawning and they should be holding to respective spots willing to eat. I would also expect to see some action up in the shallower weed flats for both pike and bass... slow-rolling spinner baits should get those fish to move or else a little impulse strike on the wake bait or lipless crankbait. I'll also be pitching some Salmo Hornets on the outside weed lines with spinning rods to see what bites. And of course the infamous wacky-rig might get a little workout on the bass too! Keeps things versatile and see what the day throws at you. If you're dead-set on catching walleyes but the walleyes are just not biting, then I encourage you to switch tactics and maybe target a different species... heck, it will at least keep you warm tomorrow :)

Have fun everyone and be safe out there!!

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Matt Johnson

Well, things certainly warmed up nicely the last several days! Sure was a cold start to the MN fishing season but we were back in shorts and t-shirts before we knew it!  The fishing action heated up too... at least the shallows turned on again. We moved back up towards the banks (actually out a little ways in 3-6 feet of water) to focus on shallower fish. The bass were up cruising the last week or so and the panfish were right with them... with some larger sunfish starting to school up too! Trick with the bass the last several days though was to not sit on top of them, but instead cast from a distance and let them intercept. We fished slow with wacky-rigged Mister Twister Comidas and Poc'it Frys... seemed to seal the deal nicely (see attached pic). Sometimes you literally had to just hold your rod and be patient but they would scoot over and pick up the bait. Also found some real nice fish in the channel mouths and mouths of back bays... seemed to be a slight pattern that developed. Otherwise it was shallow inside weed lines and bomb casts! Early in the morning the fish would cruise the marinas and boat harbors, but then slide out during the day.

Hopefully everyone had a safe MN fishing opener and caught some fish! Rain this week (much needed) so things will be a little wet but it will all work out in the long run. Good luck this week if you make it out!

MJ comdia bass.jpg

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Matt Johnson

The fish have definitely moved out the last week or so... at least in regards to bass. A LOT of fish in that 6-12 foot range now, with some even deeper depending on the lake and weed growth. Still some fish to be had up around docks and inside weed lines, but the consistent action is out in the newly growing weeds and outside weed lines. With the 90 degree temps predicted later this week we'll be fishing summer patterns before we know it! :)

The pike are cruising the outside weed lines as well. Throw a lipless crankbait or pull a Salmo Hornet and you'll get bit by pike! LOL.  Some walleyes coming in on the hornets right now too.

The bluegills are bedding all over now too, but please be respectful of those big females and let them know if you tie into some of the bigger ones. This is a vulnerable time for the sunfish populations and if you plan to keep fish for a meal please be selective. You won't have a hard time catching them so comb through the bigger ones and keep the 7-8" fish for the table. Ok, my small soap box speech is done ;)

Otherwise the warm weather this week should get things kicked off in high gear! I'm looking forward to a great week of fishing and be safe everyone!

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Matt Johnson

Looks like I need to resurrect this one... sorry for the long delay... 

It's been a whirlwind of a winter already. A couple dozen guide trips in the books and over a dozen different lakes across the Metro and surrounding areas.  Chisago... to Minnetonka... to Clearwater... to Prior... to Big Marine... and other places in between.

The good news:  we have good ice and the season is definitely in full-swing!  It's making up for past years!

That being said... big word of the day... WEEDS, WEEDS, WEEDS!!!  The biggest fish are constantly coming out of the weeds.  Sure there are numbers out deeper and throughout the basins, but if you want to consistently catch big Metro fish (panfish) then focus on the weeds.  Even larger walleyes are coming from the weeds.  Spend some time with the underwater camera and/or sight-fishing... force yourself to get out of your comfort zone and fish in the weeds (if you don't already).  Also turn to plastics instead of live-bait.  These few ARE feeding, they are not dormant.  Fish plastics and get after 'em!

I've spent most of my time targeting fish in less than 20 feet of water.  You basin bite is holding fish during low-light though, so if you're going to hunker-down over a deeper pod of fish then make sure the focal point is sunrise and sunset, otherwise chase-down the shallow fish during the day and stay moving until you find biting fish.  Our best bites are mid-day in the weeds... or those first couple hours after sunrise on some lakes.  Haven't had to focus on the night-bite a whole lot, but if that's your window of fishing then definitely go for it--you'll still get bit!

The tip-ups have been a little quite lately. Haven't put a ton of time into them, but they haven't been flying much. A handful of small pike, that's about it. Might need to go on a tip-up excursion soon though!

Hopefully everyone is out enjoying the season! Good luck, be safe, and have fun!

 

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IceHawk

Great Report Matt

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Matt Johnson

The basin bite really turned on this past weekend.  For whatever reason, a lot of those stagnant fish decided to feed... and feed ALL DAY for a change!  Maybe they were just sick of it being so cold and decided enough was enough, lol.  Regardless, it seems like the anglers out over the basins did well this weekend.  And the beauty of it, the fish weren't moving a ton and you could sit over them! Always nice when they do that during these cold days!

The shallow weed bite continues to produce too though... so don't abandon that bite if you're on it.  Those fish have been pretty consistent all season and typically give-up the better-size fish too.  It's a plastics bite--although live bait will work too--and you'll get a better fight out of the fish as well.  Me personally, I'd prefer to focus on the fish in the weeds, but both bites are fun and seem to be productive lately.  And not all weed spots are created equal... deep water nearby is important, especially if you're going to camp and not move a lot.  Sure you can camp over a expansive shallow flat, but the size of fish doesn't seem to be there.  I've seen where you need to be adjacent to deeper water if you're setting up in the weeds and not planning to move around (hole-hop).  If you're able to move around a lot then you have more flexibility.

A few tactics that have worked for us lately... spoons have ramped-up some fish catching, same with larger tungsten--and this is more-directly focused at the basin bite.  It's important to get down quick and also entice a reaction strike.  I'm not looking to "coax" or finesse these fish, I want aggressive hits and impulse.  We've actually done well on jigging spoons with NO bait at all.  The aggressive fish will hit it, no questions asked.  The Leech Flutter Spoon from Clam Outdoors in size 1/16 and 1/8oz has been dynamite on the crappies over the basins, and again, try it WITHOUT bait and keep it active... you'll be surprised!  Haven't had to tip them with bait the last several times out.  Makes it a whole lot easier when running and gunning!  

Then for panfish it's been tungsten and plastics, although I've had some clients doing well with maggots too.  The Snow Drop and Drop-Kick jig have both been killer... and white or pink-glow Maki plastics (Mino or Leechi) have been hot.  Several other options out there catching fish too of course.

Hoping for some consistency this week with some warmer temps... I think I even saw 40 (!!!???) degrees on Wednesday!! Wow!! Finally get to fish in a stretch of 20-degree days for highs... might have to break out the t-shirts!! ;)

Good luck to everyone this week and be safe!!

 

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Matt Johnson

Well... we got snow!!  Should help--a little--with the water levels this spring!!  Only tough part right now, it's makes for on-ice travel difficult! 

The snow aside, the bite has actually been pretty consistent the last couple weeks. The fish continue to roam the basins and expansive weed beds (panfish) and the walleyes were holding onto the main lake breaklines and structure.  The walleye bite was definitely hit or miss, but those who grinded it out for the sunrise and/or sunset bite were finding some fish.  Dead sticking has put the most walleyes on the ice from our outings and reports that I'm hearing.  Walleye season has come to a close for the Metro but hopefully everyone had a good season for those targeting gamefish!

For the panfish, the best is still yet to come! March is one of my favorite months to fish.  The weather--typically--is a little nicer, and the fish behavior changes and leans a little closer to the aggressive side!  You also continue to find fish shallower--if you haven't been targeting them shallow already.  The next several weeks will produce some of the best panfishing all year (in my opinion).  Obviously we need to keep ice conditions and safety into consideration, but generally speaking the late ice bite is one of the best.

For me, I'll be focusing on shallow structure--namely weeds and shallower depressions over flats in or adjacent to weeds.  We do have a nice blanket of snow blocking out some of the light, but with the warmer afternoon temps predicted all week we'll see much of that snow begin to flatten out.  By the weekend I'm hopeful that travel around the lakes will be much-better than yesterday, Lol!!

All that said, make sure to change your approach to coincide with the more aggressive-natured fish too.  Meaning presentation and mobility.  Upsize your baits, focus on plastics and maybe even a little larger profile.  At least see if it works, then you can always go back.  Also make slightly larger moves on a spot to find the fish, as they will probably move a little more.  Then you can make smaller moves once you "get on them."  A few simple things to increase your odds at late ice.

Overall, get out and enjoy the warmer temps and good luck on the ice!!

 

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Matt Johnson

The ice fishing season is definitely underway!  I've been on about a dozen different lakes in the last few weeks and anglers are enjoying the weather--and fishing!!  Ice conditions vary depending on the lake, but we've found 10-14" on most lakes.  Some lakes are seeing vehicles driving out already, but DON'T assume that's ok to do on all the area lakes.  Every lake is different, and just because you can drive out on one lake doesn't mean you can drive out on the lake right down the street.  We've seen some weird things happen with the weather lately too.  Always error on the side of caution, and don't risk anything.  There is still a lot of winter left!  So, take ever lake as a case-by-case basis and ask local bait shops/fishing stores what they're seeing for ice conditions.

 

As far as the bite, it's safe to say the fish are cooperating lately!  It's still fishing (not always catching) so you have to put in the work at times, but I would say the bite is above average for numbers and size as-of late.  And the fish are MUCH shallower than typical too.  The shallow weeds are booming with activity and fish--of all species!!  Our best bites have been from 5-12 feet lately, in fact, we rarely go deeper than 20 feet throughout the last several trips.  This goes for panfish (sunfish AND crappies), pike and walleye.  Seems like everything is relating to shallow cover and structure.  The deeper fish tend to be more skittish and/or lethargic and lazy... as well as "window fish", meaning they only really turn on during certain windows of time, like sunrise and sunset, otherwise just roam or sit stagnant.  

 

Mobility has been the key for the panfish.  The better pods of fish are moving often.  We've been fortunate enough to have some nice weather to stay on top of them, and it's important that you keep moving.  It's also been more productive on lakes with moderate clarity.  So the ultra clear lakes AND the dingy lakes have been tougher, lakes with moderate visibility have out-produced the rest... at least for the shallow bite, all-day bites.

 

Looks like we're going to get a few days of normal (maybe) weather... with lows in the single-digits and highs in the teens and low 20s... should harder things up nicely and add some more ice, especially with the lack of snow on the lakes.  Then things are expected to warm back up a little this weekend (low 30s only).  Looks to be a nice stretch of ice-making weather and finally continue to thicken the ice a little, rather than just hold things steady with these upper 30s and low 40s through the day!!

 

Good luck out there, and don't forget to look shallow!  Probably the biggest mistake I'm seeing anglers make in the Metro right now... everyone is out in the community spots and moving right past some of the best fishing areas! Think outside the box and go explore!  Unless you're goal for the day on the ice is to just hang with buddies and enjoy the day, then in that case, relax and put your feet up and life is good, too!!

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Matt Johnson

Is it just me, or is everyone else SICK OF SNOW, too!!??  I'm a big fan on MN, and I don't mind winter at all, but COME ON!!  Sure makes for tough conditions on the ice and it puts "work" more into the equation than we want, lol.

 

All of that said though, the fishing in the last month has been very good, it's just getting around on the ice to chase/find fish that's the problem.  If you can tackle that, then you'll catch some fish, as the angler pressure is way down off the beaten path and you pretty much have every spot to yourself.  

 

The snow has also changed the way you fish, and the way the fish act.  It's very dark under the ice, and it made a very abrupt change... one week there was literally no snow and the light penetration was insane... then the next week there was a foot of snow on the ice and things changed drastically... now fast-forward to TWO feet of snow on the ice and it's darn-right pitch-black under there!  Things we need to take into consideration when fishing.  The mid-day crappie bite has been phenomenal because of it, too!!

 

Glow jigs and spoons have done well, especially on the panfish.  Create noise and vibration, get them to find you.  They will eat, you just need them to intercept.  No bait either, just a plain spoon or a plastic tail on the jig.  Also think shallow.  A LOT of fish are staying the shallows because the weeds didn't die before this snow it so they stayed intact (for the most-part on the expansive flats).  And the fish are there!  Also makes for walking out to a spot a lot easier in the thick snow if those spots are closer to shore!

 

I've also relied heavily on GPS lately, as you don't want to have to punch a lot of holes. Navionics has been one of my best friends in the last month for sure!!

 

Looks like some warmer weather is finally going to show up, but not without a bunch more snow.  Maybe the rain next week will help too!! We need some of this snow to level out!!

 

Good luck if you hit the ice and be safe!!

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Rick

Great report. Thank you Matt. 👈👍💙🙂

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Matt Johnson

Just when you thought winter would never end, we get a forecast of 40s, 50s and MAYBE even 60s ahead of us!  After the last few weeks, this warmer weather is going to feel good, but if you're obsessed with ice fishing you're probably going to be disappointed, as it's going to take a major toll on the ice.  But before we get into that, here is a report from the last couple weeks...

 

If you could maneuver around the snow and conditions, then I'm guessing you caught some fish the last couple weeks, as the bite was pretty-darn good--and consistent!  The all-day bite really picked up too with the snow cover.  I noticed that the crappies bit all day, same with a stronger shallow bite.  The bluegills were breaking away from the weeds more, too.  More aggressive fish riding higher in the water column as well.

 

Moving (efficiently) was a definite issue though.  You had to be more calculated on where you setup, mostly because the ability to move effectively was not always an option.  Studying your Navionics maps and finding the "spot on the spot" was key.  I would also look for areas with plenty of options nearby.  Making small moves made a whole lot more sense than making big moves.  This is where doing your homework ahead of time really pays off.

 

Now, what can we expect in the next week or so?  Well, for one, we're going to see a rapid increase in temps and you can bet we'll have no snow left on the ice by the weekend--or very little.  Getting around will be easier.  Make sure to watch the shorelines and accesses, as they will be some of the fish areas to deteriorate.  Right now things are still intact, but with this rapid warm-up and even some rain predicted, it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of our Metro accesses begin to weaken and cause issues for getting on and off.  Trucks might become a concern in the near future.  Hard to believe with the winter we've had, but things can--and will--change in a hurry.  Just be mindful and don't take any risks.  The ATV is going to get a workout in the next couple weeks for me--at least in the Metro area.

 

The beauty of it though, our shallow water bite will continue to improve, especially as things melt and fresh water is entering the lakes. You won't have to walk far if you decide to walk out.  A lot of productive areas close to shore.  Also begin to condense your gear and pack light.  You don't need a lot of gear to be successful at late ice.  A one-person fish house and whatever can comfortably fit in it, anything more and it's probably too much. 

 

I'm looking forward to the next couple weeks.  Should be some excellent fishing and you'll probably need the sunscreen, too!! Just be safe out there and good luck!!

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