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Mississippi Backwater Fishing Reports - Winona Wabasha Lawrence Lake


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Since Lake Winona is regulated as an in-land waterway, while the Mississippi backwaters are MN-WI boundary waters with different rules and seasons than Lake Winona, I'm starting this new thread for Mississippi backwaters in the Winona area.

 

Reports for Winona area backwaters including, but not limited to, Bartlett Lake/AKA "the airport lake", Blackbird Slough, Sam Gordy Slough, and McNally Landing should go here.

 

I'll leave the older reports from Bartlett and other Winona backwaters in the Lake Winona Reports thread.

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Good ice has been about ten days away for a month now in southern Minnesota.  As of today that means I hope to get up there and hit the ice by New Year's Eve, but that looks iffy at best.  

I work at an area baitshop. Here is what I have at the moment. Willow Creek 4"-6" Silver Creek 4"-6" Fosters (patchy) 3"-4" not recommended to fish here yet backwaters are patchy 2

This is too late to do anyone any good, but here is a picture from my trip to Winona the last weekend in February before the ice went out. The bluegill were hitting early in the morning on Bartle

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I fished Bartlett Lake, AKA the "airport lake" backwaters, for a couple hours the afternoon of Thursday, January 23.

I was in a hurry, so I travelled light. I put a tip-up down in just under 10' of water, and drilled one hole in 15' to look for panfish.

The bluegills were hitting light, and tended to swallow the bait when they did hit: an annoying combination. I ended keeping five sunnies, although two were smaller fish that did not make it due to hook-swallowing.

I've never had consistent luck at Bartlett, going back fifteen years or more, for crappie or perch, although I get a few of each from time to time, often good-sized. Today, I got an 11" crappie, pictured below.

I also watched two eagles pick up dead suckers from the ice. I almost got two great photos of them swiping up food, but my timing was a little off. I did get a picture of one enjoying his prize.

No luck on the tip-up, but my experience there has been that the Northern and largemouth bite is best in the morning.

There was about 6" to 8" of good clear ice, with a couple inches of white ice and snow on top of it, where I was fishing.

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I went out to the airport lake backwaters again Friday morning (January 27), and did alright. I mentioned seldom getting crappie on Bartlett; on Friday I caught five or six more, although none were as big as my 11" from Thursday.

I also caught some nice bluegills, who were being finicky. Early on a spike on a bare hook was what it took, with their preference in bait getting larger as it got closer to noon.

What I liked best, even more than the crappies, was finally having a good day again with a tip-up. I make it up to Winona two or three times a winter, and so I generally stick with spots that worked ten years ago. In the case of tip-ups at the airport lake, I was putting tip-ups in a spot that produced eight or nine years ago. That spot hadn't produced for me in quite a while, so on Friday I moved my tip-up to a spot that worked on the day Gary Anderson missed That Field Goal against the Falcons in the NFC Championship game. (That was a bad afternoon, but I did very well fishing for Northern that morning in January of 1999.)

That was the right move: I caught a nice largemouth, but my camera batteries were dead, so I couldn't get a picture. I forgot to bring my pliers with me to check that flag, so I had to go back to my shack to get them, leaving the bass on the ice. I only had to walk twenty feet, but in that time one of the two eagles camped out on a tree branch took a swipe at the bass.

I also got a couple Northern on the tip-up, and missed a couple more runs.

Below is what I kept from Friday, along with the eagles in their tree scolding me after I put "their" bass back down the hole.

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Has anyone been out on Bartlett Lake over the weekend? Just curious about thickness of the ice and what's being caught, Thanks

Welcome to HSO!

I was hoping to get up there myself this weekend, but it didn't work out. I would think the ice is still good for walking up that way, but you never know...

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  • 2 weeks later...

A rather slow bluegill bite on Bartlett this afternoon--I ended up keeping seven bluegill in the seven to eight inch range. I also got a 9.5" crappie. The sunfish preferred spikes over waxies, and generally looked at the bait for a while before hitting.

I did get two largemouth on my tip-up, which wasn't bad for a couple hours. I generally found in the past the morning is the best time to fish that water, but this is when I could get up there. There was ten to twelve inches of good ice where I was at.

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  • 2 weeks later...
itchmesir

I caught a big dogfish in the lake just past the hangars on the minimum maintenance road that goes past the airport. Not Bartlett Lake, but the one that's on your right as you're driving back that way. Fun stuff.

you talking about the first pit there with the beach? I hear there are some big ol pike in there... The split lakes there.. I've caught some big pike in the past.. but after that last kill... it hasn't been nearly as productive.. think most the pike got killed off

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ThunderLund78

Yup, that's the one. You can also walk through the woods a bit and fish off the point. Didn't realize it killed, I thought it was pretty deep and I figured the close proximity to the river kept enough water moving in-and-out to keep it aerated.

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I made my final ice-fishing trip of the season out to Bartlett Lake yesterday; my guess is everyone will be done ice-fishing that by no later than Tuesday.

There was still six or seven inches of ice over the deeper water out by the island, although it was not in the best shape. It was soft, pulpy, and came up in small chunks, not shavings, where I drilled holes.

Closer to the north shore line is where things are sketchy. There is open water along most of the north-facing shore from the landing out towards the island, and not just right at where water meets land. I drilled a hole ten to fifteen yards out from shore in 9' of water, and had no more than 3" of clear ice beneath a couple inches of white slush and pulp. That got my attention. shocked

To be safe I dragged my gear on shore over the grass most of the way out there and back, although one other guy did get on the ice right at the parking lot and made it out and back without getting wet.

As for the fishing, I was glad I brought tip-ups, as the largemouth were hitting very well. No big fish, but here is one 15" I caught:

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There was a little surge in the bluegill bite around 4:30, but otherwise that was slow, which is why I stopped fishing for them and just sat there for a couple hours watching tip-ups--I was catching more bass than panfish. laugh No Northern or crappie today.

Given the short cruddy year for ice that we had, it is fitting that my last fish of the season was a 3" bluegill.

full-3973-18218-lastice2012002.jpg

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Nice report Eyes. Can't say I'm sad to see the ice go though. I'm ready to get the kayak out!

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Yup, that's the one. You can also walk through the woods a bit and fish off the point. Didn't realize it killed, I thought it was pretty deep and I figured the close proximity to the river kept enough water moving in-and-out to keep it aerated.

That pit on the right side of the road (Riley Lake?) as you drive out to Bartlett is a funny place. When I lived in Winona it looked to me like a good spot, but all I got shore-fishing it on open water were a few hammer handles, little bass, dogfish, and small bluegills.

I tried it ice-fishing a couple times, and while I found deep water (this is before I had a flasher, so I can't say how deep), I never found anything but small bluegills. I haven't fished it in at least eleven years.

Every winter I see one or two sets of tracks going out there after it freezes, but no one ever seems to go back a second time, which makes me think they are having the same results I did. If it does freeze out often, that would explain why the fishing in there doesn't measure up to what you would expect looking at it.

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itchmesir

Yup, that's the one. You can also walk through the woods a bit and fish off the point. Didn't realize it killed, I thought it was pretty deep and I figured the close proximity to the river kept enough water moving in-and-out to keep it aerated.

The first lake to the right is the pit... that did not kill off.. it is very deep.. i've been told up to about 100'... the two lakes you drive between after the pit are Riley's Lakes... those will freeze up and have huge kills every couple years from what the DNR says.. i dont make it out there often enough to notice this trend... unless you hit it right away after ice out... its pointless to fish.. it gets so weeded up

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itchmesir

btw.. Is this area actually considered "backwaters"? It is between the tracks and I believe that whole area is fed by Hunter's Lake which is fed by the mississippi...Or is it considered "in-land lakes"

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ThunderLund78

btw.. Is this area actually considered "backwaters"? It is between the tracks and I believe that whole area is fed by Hunter's Lake which is fed by the mississippi...Or is it considered "in-land lakes"

It's a good question for the local DNR. I would think it's connected by wetlands but obviously not direct channels. Now that I think of it, Prairie Island (which I don't even think is an actual island) is east of those lakes, so maybe they're not connected by any means. I'd guess inland.

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btw.. Is this area actually considered "backwaters"? It is between the tracks and I believe that whole area is fed by Hunter's Lake which is fed by the mississippi...Or is it considered "in-land lakes"

I'm 99.99% sure that the entire area between the railroad track, is considered the river.

on another note..The pit you are talking about, is that the small pond near the "S" curve in the road?? Or are you talking about the first large body of water, to the right, behind Ticona??

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There used to be a "No Trespassing" sign on the little pond on the east side of the road. It belonged to Blong's Tree Service, IIRC. That pond looks too small to hold any sort of decent fish, so probably no loss if it is still off-limits.

I couldn't remember if the deep pit on the east side of the road was called "Riley Lake", or if that was the shallow backwater on both sides of the road where the airport lights are.

Riley Lake, the shallow backwater on both sides of the road between the deep pit and Bartlett, is indeed too shallow to hold fish in a bad winter. I too have seen the dead carp and Northern stack up in the drainage ditch on the west side of the road near the little brick building.

Now, back to discussing whether Bartlett is the "real" airport lake, or if that honor belongs to the little pit by TRW maybe a mile away. laugh

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"I'm 99.99% sure that the entire area between the railroad track, is considered the river."

Yup.

It doesn't matter if a body of water is directly connected to the Mississippi by an open permanent waterway. If that water lies between the railroad tracks on the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the river, for regulation purposes it is a MN-WI boundary water.

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ThunderLund78

"I'm 99.99% sure that the entire area between the railroad track, is considered the river."

Yup.

It doesn't matter if a body of water is directly connected to the Mississippi by an open permanent waterway. If that water lies between the railroad tracks on the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the river, for regulation purposes it is a MN-WI boundary water.

Interesting, Thanks for clarifying. I'm talking about the one behind Ticona, i just couldn't remember the name of that company. Caught good panfish there and nice bass and northern out of Bartlett--which we also called Airport lake. But officially, I think airport lake is the other pit across the road from the airport in front of the old Badger Construction building. We used to call it "The Rope Swing Lake" because it used to have one hanging from a tree and we would go there in the summer and drink, swing and swim. Then somebody got hurt and ruined it for everyone--the City of Goodview cut the limb that held it it. But back to fishing, there's also great panfish in there as well. Good shore fishing opportunities on all those lakes for us poor college kids.

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itchmesir

There used to be a "No Trespassing" sign on the little pond on the east side of the road. It belonged to Blong's Tree Service, IIRC. That pond looks too small to hold any sort of decent fish, so probably no loss if it is still off-limits.

I couldn't remember if the deep pit on the east side of the road was called "Riley Lake", or if that was the shallow backwater on both sides of the road where the airport lights are.

Riley Lake, the shallow backwater on both sides of the road between the deep pit and Bartlett, is indeed too shallow to hold fish in a bad winter. I too have seen the dead carp and Northern stack up in the drainage ditch on the west side of the road near the little brick building.

Now, back to discussing whether Bartlett is the "real" airport lake, or if that honor belongs to the little pit by TRW maybe a mile away. laugh

born and raised a townie.. the pit or "airport lake" is by TRW... not by the airport.. ironically

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ThunderLund78

born and raised a townie.. the pit or "airport lake" is by TRW... not by the airport.. ironically

Ah!

I stand corrected. I lived there 10 years but didn't absorb that one smile It's been great visiting this thread and reliving some of the good ol' days. Keep pounding those backwaters, there's big fish to be caught.

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"There was still six or seven inches of ice over the deeper water out by the island, although it was not in the best shape. It was soft, pulpy, and came up in small chunks, not shavings, where I drilled holes.

Closer to the north shore line is where things are sketchy. There is open water along most of the north-facing shore from the landing out towards the island, and not just right at where water meets land. I drilled a hole ten to fifteen yards out from shore in 9' of water, and had no more than 3" of clear ice beneath a couple inches of white slush and pulp. That got my attention.

To be safe I dragged my gear on shore over the grass most of the way out there and back, although one other guy did get on the ice right at the parking lot and made it out and back without getting wet."

I should add that there were several large patches of open water at Bartlett on Thursday. This was so obvious I forgot to mention it.

The water at the parking lot is now open past the fishing pier; someone was in fact fishing from it for a while.

There is also a rather large patch of open water north/northwest from the boat ramp on the far side of that small bay.

And there is a lot of open water west of the island.

All three of these spots are areas that always freeze late (when they freeze at all) and open early, but none the less as large as the open areas were they show we are near the end of the season out there.

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itchmesir

For an area that has little to nil current.. Bartlett ices out pretty quick... I had hiked in from the prairie restoration on prairie island road back in mid-late december.. and jumped over to the island that's across from where they cleared all those trees.. and there was still water that hadn't froze over

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Its full of springs. That is why it opens up so fast, also why the water near the dock rarely freezes over for very long. It's a great fishery, but can be dangerous, if you are unsure, as to where you are going.

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itchmesir

All that open water between here and LaX! Looks like everything for the most part is open... I really need to get my fly rod put together quick.. Might just have to take out the 5wt if this wind would just settle down

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itchmesir

Have been out the last 3 days on the backwaters of the Mississippi.. anywhere from bartlett to the culvert.. Largemouth are feasting away.. Minnows/Panfish are schooled up and feeding in the shallows and the bass are making an all you can eat buffet of them... Caught one Tuesday that was around 18"... Pike have been active as well.. And seen folks pulling out nice eater sized perch.. Even caught myself a walleye on the fly... It's a great time to get out.. Bugs are popping and everything is getting their eat on!

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itchmesir

Water has risen almost 1.5' over the past couple days.. fishing cooled down from earlier in the week and am hearing the same from other folks... with a storm system moving in maybe things will heat up today and tomorrow.. I'm still bound and determined to get out yet again and keep my streak of 6 consecutive days fishing going strong...

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  • 3 months later...

Got out from 7-12:30 today on some Winona area backwaters, but the fishing was tough. I was ill-prepared for the substantial mayfly hatch going off this morning. It's unfortunate too, because fish would have likely piled up. Still managed a few eager pike, and one decent largemouth. Overall though, fish didn't seem too interested in my presentations.

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itchmesir

What mayfly is coming off right now?

River level is at par.. the blocks in front of the spillway are visible again by about 6"

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My guess was a Hex hatch. There were hundreds of them. It was the better than most caddis hatches I saw this year on trout streams. The water was just boiling. Northerns would sit about 6" below the surface, completely visible, just waiting to take the next one to touch the water. Crazy stuff. I sight fished them for a while, but couldn't get much other than a few follows.

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  • 5 months later...

Any ice fishing reports from the Winona area?

I'm heading up that way Friday, and I'm hoping to hit early ice at the airport lake backwaters if they're ready. McNally Landing, I'm sure, has been hammered thoroughly.

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      Up at the NW Angle...  
      Great fishing continues on both sides of the border.  In U.S. waters, deep mud of Little Traverse Bay continues producing walleyes in 28 - 33 feet.  Spinners and crankbaits are effective in covering water and catching these fish as there are various pods scattered in the deep mud.
      Various structure, such as underwater points and sunken islands, are also holding some walleyes, as they normally do.  Not all walleyes in the system are keyed into the same forage.  
      Pike and muskie anglers finding fish on weedy points using jerkbaits and topwater. 
      Travel via vehicle through Canada to the Angle now open.  Boating into Canadian waters is now open.  
      To travel up to the Angle and avoid the border crossing, vaccination cards and COVID test results, charter boat transport and float planes are available through the LOW Passenger Service and Lake Country Air.  
       


    • cherokeeref
      By cherokeeref
      Wondering what water levels are compared to a normal year? Will be up early/mid September. Thx in advance.
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