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Winter on the Pond


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The same questions regarding what jigs/bait to use, how deep, and where to go; keep coming up over and over again. Hopefully this post will answer those general inquiries. This information is based on my personal experiences over the past fifteen years fishing LOTW on a regular basis, and is referring to walleye/sauger through the ice.

First of all, let’s talk jigs. Chances are every one of us has a separate collection of winter jigs that is not mixed in with our summer conglomeration. Go ahead and bring the entire box of winter stuff. I assume that most of us don’t pick through our winter boxes and only bring certain jigs to certain lakes, but some of the posts make it sound that way. As for which ones to use, GOLD is the old standby up here, but other colors have their days, as scary as it sounds, you will probably have to experiment- a lot- on the slow days. It is important to remember that it is not just color that fish relate to. As a matter of fact, just changing the size of your presentation will often have a bigger effect than the color you chose. Case in point was Christmas Eve. Immediately after setting up in a new spot, I started marking fish. They would follow my Angel Eye jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head three or four feet off the bottom, but would not bite. After several follows, I hooked a whole minnow on the same jig, and proceeded to catch about a dozen fish in the next hour. Two days later in the same spot, they wouldn’t touch a whole minnow, but absolutely pounded minnow heads. With regard to minnows, chase the moths out of your wallet and buy shiners and fat heads. They both have their days. Yes, there are probably other kinds of minnows that the fish will eat, if you want to bring something and try, it can’t hurt.

How deep and where to go? Due to the size of LOTW, how deep is not a question you should base your trip on. There are active fish at different depths at the exact same time on the exact same day. Lo and behold, there are inactive fish at those same depths at those same times. Long story short, if you’re a stationary fisherperson, it’s a crapshoot. If you’re a mobile fisherperson, you increase your odds, but the house still holds the advantage. It is true that the fish move deeper as it gets colder, and there can be a really good morning and/or evening shallow water bite. It is impossible to say you’ll catch more fish at 31 feet than you will at 26 feet in the middle of January from day to day, or how shallow is shallow enough. Again this goes back to the size of the lake, and the incredible amount of fish we’re dealing with. Sorry, I know everyone wants to be told go to X depth on such and such a date at such and such a time, and you’ll hammer fish, but it just isn’t that easy, and can change hour to hour. In a normal year, meaning one where the water wasn’t thicker than pea soup in 75% of the lake, you could really increase your odds, just fishing on and around one of the reefs. Unfortunately, that has not been much of an option this year, so I will quit talking about it.

A couple other things I would like to mention. A flasher is just as critical as an auger and a fishing rod to your success. Not only can you see if they are there, but you can tell if you need to adjust your presentation based on their reaction to the bait. You can refer to my X-mas Eve experience to illustrate this fact.

Lastly, although there is not much of a night bite on LOTW, if you’re sleeping on the ice, you will not catch the ones that do bite if you don’t have bait in the water. No, you probably don’t want to constantly jig and stare at the flasher, but what can it hurt to put down a rattle wheel, or leave a deadstick down? To go along with this, when I say night bite, I’m talking middle of the night. I have had some of my best action in the mid-winter months one to two hours before sunrise, and after sunset. This is the shallow water action I mentioned above, with depths anywhere from six to sixteen feet. In the morning hours, I wouldn’t stay much later than nine, and in the evening I quit at least an hour after it’s completely dark.

Early ice and late ice are not my specialty, as I am in the boat on the Rainy during those times much more than I am on the ice. I will let Fisky and others fill you in on those times of year.

I wish there were simple, here’s what you need to do, instructions for fishing the big pond, but there’s not. On any given day there can be a dozen hot lures and depths, hopefully you’re lucky enough to find one of them. Good luck and safe journeys to all.

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Very nice piece of writing, WJ. I'd have to concur with what you said and enjoyed reading your viewpoints.

MJ

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Nice job Walleye Jon. We will have to attach this to

Fiskys classic "Things to do on the Big Pond" thread.

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So how deep? which minnows? what color should i use?

Just kidding. grin.gif

Great post. 6 of us are hitting the pond for the first time this weekend. I'm going to print this out just in case the fish aren't jumping out of the holes. crazy.gif I have not been to LOW, but basics sound the same here as with any other lake. Keep movin' and changin' presentations. Good luck to everyone else hitting the lake this weekend! Hopefully this is the weekend it turns around.

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WJ: Great post. thats what makes this site so awesome, folks like you sharing information and techiques. You are so right switching up jigs and presentations can make or break a trip. Personally I have at least 5-6 different jigs ready to go, and will switch often if nothing is happening. As Widetrack always says " For every shot not taken you will not score" or something like that. It is still a great place to be even on a slow day. Bill

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Ok, that info is all good but you not say anything about proper maintence of a daytime drinking buzz, how to keep your beer from freezing, why eating apples in an icehouse can be dangerous, and what the exact ratio of vodka to orange juice should be.

LOL

Thanks for all the info

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Believe it or not Reef, after 15 years on the Pond I have answers for those questions as well. First of all maintaining the daytime buzz is by far the most difficult of your quandries and goes hand in hand with not letting your beer freeze. The proper technique is to use the hand opposite your jigging hand to drink with. By alternating jigging and drinking in direct proportion to outside air temperature, wind speed and direction, moon phase, and food intake, the delicate balance can be achieved. Every once in a while a stupid fish will actually bite, and you'll be forced to make spur of the moment adjustments to maintain the correct harmonic balance. This technique can take a lifetime to master, and should be practiced at every opportunity. Meaning you will have to have several mock fishing sessions at home. This also holds true for summer fishing, but it's the beer getting warm that we are desperatly trying to overcome.

Eating apples in the fishouse is dangerous because it can have a significant adverse effect on the daytime buzz. You are much better off sticking to wild game jerkies and sausages, potato chips, a ham bun or two, or some fried fish and taters. You have to remember that the Food Pyramid is entirely different while fishing than it is at home. The only thing from the fruit or vegetable group that you need to bring with would be pickles, olives, or celery, for what we affectionately refer to as Morning Mary's or in some cases Breakfast with Mary.

Your vodka question is a loaded question (pun intended)since you did not mention the brand of vodka, and whether or not you use ice. Not to mention we don't know the variables mentioned in part one of this answer to figure into the equation. I assume you were just testing me with that question, hope I passed. FYI, my normal ratio in the middle of winter is 2 parts OJ to 1 part Grey Goose.

If there are other mysteries of life that involve fishing on LOTW, all you need to do is ask. If I don't know the answer, I can certainly make up something that sounds good.

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I forgot to mention the two major telltale warning signs of the daytime buzz turning into complete intoxication:

1. A noticable increase in urination and/or vomiting frequency.

2. Taking multiple headers into one or more fishing holes.

Either of these signs can lead to the dreaded "first guy to passout" label that you will have to carry until you get the hang of maintaining the daytime buzz.

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Dear WalleyeJon, my buddy is in the process of planning a long weekend trip to LOW in sleeper houses with a quarterback, cornerback, offensive lineman, and a running back from a certain football team based here in the Twin Cities. They have just recieved confirmation that a former Heisman Trophy and Buffalo Bill running back from USC will be joining them as well. Do you have any advice on activities that can make the trip more enjoyable for all involved? If someone forgets their sunglasses on shore should we have them brought out to us by a bartender from the resort or should we just not bring any knives out there with us? laugh.gif

Thanks Walleye

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SFBOY,

Although your queary has the same answer on any MN lake, and my vast array of BS is generally LOTW specific, I will make an exception and answer your well thought out head scratcher in effort to make your world a sea of tranquility once again.

First of all, we all know what happens when you mix a QB and a DB, throw in a bumbling, oafish OL and you have a sure fired recipie for disaster. At the very least, they end up tripping over each other at the bar, and invariably break their fall at the expense of some poor barmaid, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. The notion that you or your buddy would even consider including any ex-Buffalo Bill, with the possible exception of Phil Hansen, is childish at best. But to entertain an invite to the certain RB you mentioned is simply ludacris. My God the guy has too big of hands to put gloves on, and you want to expose the poor man to a Minnesota Winter? Buffalo may get a lot of snow, but they don't understand what really cold is.

It would behoove everyone to "forget" their sunglasses at home. Pesky things are always getting left somewhere, which could cause confusion amongst the group, and cut into fishing time while you're running around looking for them. Speaking of cutting, it is common knowledge that professional athletes should not be allowed to handle anything but plastic cutlery. A real knife can only lead to an accident which causes whoever is involved to become embarrassed, and they are forced to lie about what really happened to try and save face in front of "the guys".

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Jonny-boy, I am impressed! I have to admit that I have no slam this time for you, because I concur with everything you have stated. I have an addition to the daytime buzz vs. intoxication part, though. Last time I was on the pond I did two headers in two different fish holes before 10:00 AM, and another in our crew had excessive vomiting before breakfast was even served. So, the "left-over" buzz from the night before must be added to the equation of the daytime buzz vs. intoxication. Failing to acknowledge the left-over buzz can lead to premature daytime buzz, then early complete intoxication which can (and usually does) result in "first guy passout".

I echo exactly what you've stated in lures, depths, etc. I have not fished the lake nearly as much as you, but my experiences are the same. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. I've had great days, and really bad days. What keeps me coming back to the pond is knowing that I have the chance to catch either a lot of walleyes, or a trophy, or both. Not many other waters offer that chance. Ask around, get some tips, and go fishing.

Nuts, now I really have NAFF! crazy.gif

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Ahhh, MercMan, or should I say Young Grasshopper? You must open your mind and take in ALL that I have stated. In order to avoid another two-header morning, you must, as my old football coach so often told me, "practice how you play" i.e. re-read where I talk about employing mock fishing sessions at home. I must insist that you hold one of those sessions tonight in the garage. Perhaps soon you will come to appreciate the true meaning of the "delicate balance" I mentioned. I'm sure you have a clear memory of when I myself let balance slip away last year on 5 Mile (at least I hope you do, 'cause I can't remember crap). That blurred memory re-dedicated me in my quest of the perfect daytime buzz. As for your vomitous young friend, he does not figure into the equation at all since he did not attempt to maintain the buzz after the initial act, and proceded to re-passout on the ice a short time later. This coupled with leaving early indicates an utter lack of practice, and you and the rest of the crew should consider a reverse intervention to get him back in shape.

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GREAT STUFF WJ! Tip of the hat to ya! Very well written humor. Ever consider a writing job for a sit-com?

It's too bad WE didn't get in more "practice" while I was there. Most of my "practicing" was with the Fisky one. wink.gif

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Hoo boy! What happened to you? Did you have some kind of divine intervention last night or what? You must have a serious case of NAFF.

I've been practicing for the perfect daytime buzz for years and years also, and can never seem to get it right. I think I'll take your advice, oh wise one, and practice more tonight. Yes, Dan....good humor. Nothing tops the humor of being out on the pond with WJ in person, though. (P.S. He also has one HECK of a fish batter recipe).

I'm blaming the headers I took on Fisky. He drilled holes in my walkway. smile.gif

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Quote:

They have just recieved confirmation that a former Heisman Trophy and Buffalo Bill running back from USC will be joining them as well.
laugh.gif


This person whouldn't happen to were Bruno Molly shoes that leave foot prints and have a hard time putting his gloves on would he? grin.gif

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My heartfelt thanks Dan and Merc. It is true that North American Fishing Fever has all but but taken over my life this week leading up to my first ever hard water trip to Winni, but it is not soley respondsible for my epiphany of late. The other driving force is my irrisistable urge to type words and phrases I don't dare say in front of other people lest I be chastised. Not to mention it's really fun.

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Alas, I must bid ado to all for the weekend. Winni's soulful cry beckons, and must heed her call. The balance of the daytime buzz coupled with the pressure of pre-fishing my first I.C.E. event on a new lake, may prove to be my hardest challenge to date tomorrow, yet I must trudge on, undaunted, so that Monday I can continue sharing my plethera of useless knowledge to those who have enough time to waste reading my jumbled views on the mysteries of fishing LOTW.

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In reading recent posts, I thought that I better get some rookie advice. I will be taking my first trip to LOTWs in about a month, fishing out of the NW Angle. I will be heading up there with about 8-10 of my family/relations, all of whom have been there in the past, an sound like they have the day-long buzz pretty much down. Just wondering if there are any tips a rookie should try to keep up? confused.gif BTW, how's the fishing off the angle?

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Great post walleyejon all of them? This is a somewhat serious question though as I'm thinkin if there aint no night time bite my liver will be shot by the time I return home. I read on another site about the eelpout. How do we catch them at dark, bait, jigs, etc. or is this like a snipe hunt. Never been to LOTW so any advise you could add would help.

Thanks...Arjak

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I haven't invested as much time up there as WJ has but here's what I can tell you about pout. Fish em just like walleyes or even hook a minnow to a reverse jig and let it sit on the bottom. A couple of weeks ago while spending a night on the ice was the first time I actually fished for burbot. About 10 PM, my bobber went down. It was the only time I've been disappointed to see a walleye on my hook. (I know, crazy huh?) But, anyways, I released the 14"er and dropped the hook again. Finally, at 11:00 PM I caught a burbot. Boiled the straps in Mountain Dew (that's all we had), dipped them in buttter and it was delicous.

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WJ, you forgot the mention the golden rule. "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning."

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Quote:

"You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning."


That's the greatest one liner I have heard in a long, long time. Do you mind if I borrow that? LOL!

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I stole it from someone so go ahead. It's from the same family that says "Those day beers don't count" when somebody asked him how many beers he had drank that day.

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Aha! So, if I skip a few morning beers then I can honestly tell my wife "no, I have not" when she asks me if I have been drinking all day, correct? Learn something new every day.

Walleyejon called me from the ice on Winni. They just got set up when he called. Here I am sitting at work. Ugh.

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I just talked to walleyejon again as he's sitting on the ice on Winni. After all that preaching he has done regarding the perfect day time buzz, it ends up that he's sitting there with frozen beer. I laughed my hind end off.

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Too funny! Do you suppose he can claim rookie status because he is on Winnie. Or some kind of a different properties rule that isn't the same as LOTW. Ha I'm still chuckling some are describing it as a chortle now. Thanks your getting me through another day at work.

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Here I am, thrust back into the reality that is life. The adventure to Winni was not as productive as my day dreams lead me to believe it would be. I have to say that the lake's structure, definately lends itself to be an incredible fishery, we just didn't hit it when the bite was on. As for the frozen beer, that did not happen on the lake. It was the remainder of an afterwork adventure for some gills, that I'ld been on a few days prior, and left in the pickup Wednesday night. I discovered the Bud Light Slushies after work Thursday, and did not think thawing them out would be a problem. This slight miscalculation was traced directly to a tidal surge near Cape Horn, not my "rookie status" on Winni, and simply delayed my initial beer by an hour or so. Fear not though, as a very adequate daytime buzz was achieved.

Back to the task at hand.

DoubleA, You are the perfect example of a person who needs to invest the time and effort in multiple mock sessions. When you can make it to work on time with only a small patch of hair on your tongue several days in a row after these sessions, you should be in game shape.

Arjak: I can only add a couple minor comments to wallydiver's advice. When targeting pout you may want to use several minnows, and squish one or two of them up a bit. Secondly, make sure that if you're fishing with someone who has never seen a pout before you have them grab the first one out of the hole. Some of the reactions to a person's first pout can only be desribed as "priceless". FYI, I grew up a hop, skip, and a jump down the road from Tomah between Bangor and Mindoro. Give me a shout if you're headed up this way, and I'll help ya out. mneyecatcher at yahoo (Contact US Regarding This Word).

Merc and Zap. One of life's greatest gifts is laughter, and I'm glad I could bestow a good gut-buster on ya.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • smurfy
      kettle....have you chased around any sunfish lately???? kinda wondering if there done spawning???? the last time i was up the sunfish we did clean that had eggs in it didnt even look close to spawning. although i know they seem to carry eggs around most of the summer it seems!!!!!!
    • SkunkedAgain
      Maybe the bamboozler will end up being like every fish story, some old timers holding their hands out as wide as possible to demonstrate to a youngster just how big it was....
    • smurfy
      kettle, when are you going to fish for something decent to eat????🤔🤣🤣   nice batch of fish!!!!!!!!!
    • muskie-mike
      My wife agrees about the pizza...was the best...  
    • Kettle
      Fished a bigger lake, fish or at least the eaters are on the mid lake humps. Water Temps 68 degrees, freezer now has 6 total as I've been eating fish often. Tomorrow we chase the 30" walleye for catch and release.  
    • LUCIFER
      Stuntz Bay Boathouse Historic District - Wikipedia   They have some info.  
    • smurfy
      👍that can be arranged!!!
    • MarkB
      I just returned home today from 4 wonderful days of fishing my favorite lake. We arrived late Saturday and was able to fish a bit that evening. Our group was comprised of my cousin, one of our very close friends and myself. On Saturday evening we managed to catch 16 walleyes on crawlers, leeches, and minnows. In spite of less than perfect weather conditions(95 degree heat and high to near hurricane force winds) we ended up with 103 walleyes boated and perhaps that many missed and lost during retrieval through Wednesday early afternoon. Minnows worked best one day, leeches worked great one day, and crawlers were the ticket Wednesday with our biggest fish of the trip coming that day. The bites ranged from very light to jerk the rod out of your hand. Our terminal gear consisted of jig/minnow, Lindy rig, to my old standby 4 ft leader, 1oz bouncer, 2 red beads, and a Gamakatsu size 8 orange hook. The bouncer rig outfished the rest by a wide margin. Speed was a huge factor and .4-.6mph was the speed that worked best. The high winds made boat control/speed a real challenge. We caught all of our fish from 8ft to 24ft with the optimun depth ~14ft give or take. When we got to the lake the water temp was 64.5 degrees and yesterday afternnon when we quit, it was 68.5 degrees. We did not see any significant amounts of mayflies except in the water columns in a few areas of the lake. The fish we cleaned went from stuffed with mayflies, full of crawdads, to full of perch minnows. We found the fish in the rocks and on mud flats. I looked for the fish with sonar and only fished where I found fish. I found our fish in the east end of Big Bay, Daisy Bay, Armstrong Bay, Portage Bay, and Bystrom Bay. We caught fish at every place we stopped. Wind dictated where we fished on any given day. On Monday, I had to cross the east end of Fraser Bay and in over 60 years, I have never seen it that rough.  We found the cheapest gas at Shamrock Marina($6.29/gal) and the best bait at the Y store. We have eaten pizza at the Vermilion Club for more years than I can count and, to put it bluntly, we were very disappointed this year. To us, it was definitely not the same quality of pizza we have become accustomed to. Suffice it to say, we will be ordering something different from the menu in the future. All in all, Lake Vermilion provided us with another lasting memory. Great fishing on the greatest lake in Minnesota. We will return in mid-September and we are already anxious. Pictured below is my cousin with two nice walleyes caught 10 minutes apart. They were caught on crawlers.   Good Fishing MarkB🙂    
    • Wanderer
      Maybe pay him in smoked pike so he can taste some fish instead just crunching down on walleyes all the time! 😉
    • smurfy
      Hey stay outta it.😫🤭🙄 😊   Thanks kettle I may take you up on that sometime.
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