Tom Neustrom, owner of professional fishing service, MN Fishing Connections, highlights ice fishing for panfish in Grand Rapids, MN. Ladies and Gentlemen! Start your Augers! The hard water season is upon us and it’s time to get ready for the 2022-2023 ice fishing season. Currently we are moving along at a good pace for forming good ice conditions as long as we don’t get dumped on by a lot of snow. It’s an exciting time of year for anglers that like to spend time on the ice. Now through the end of February there are many species that are available to catch. It’s a great way to get out during the winter with family and friends and spend some quality time.
Safety is the first and most important part of ice fishing and there has always been a tip that “No Ice is Safe”. When getting out for the first time get some good information from local bait shops on current ice conditions. When walking out on the ice, take a spud bar and rap the ice in front of you as you walk. I like to hit the ice soundly three to four times to make sure where I’m walking has firm walkable footing and sound support. Stay away from 2-3 inch cracks when possible. Wearing a life jacket or one of the new float suits is not a bad idea early on. Boots are an all important piece of gear and attaching removable spikes are essential to not take a tumble. Once there is measurable snow on firm ice the chance slipping is far less.
Good warm gear in layers can help you keep warm and toasty out on the ice. There are several companies that make quality Heat Pacs to put into your gloves,ice suit pockets, and even toe warmers for your boots. These are also essential not just for ice fishing but also for any other outdoor activity in the winter. Always remember to bring extra gloves, boots and additional warm clothes.
Check out the MN DNR Ice Fishing Safety Tips before you head out.
Early ice fishing can be some of the best of the season and locations of several species can be fairly predictable. Panfish which relate to edges and existing weed beds will most often stay in the same area when first frozen. Bluegill especially will stay in locations that have good cover and provide the food they need during the winter months. Crappies will also seek these early locations, but have a tendency to be near deeper water areas. Crappies prefer soft bottom bays during most of the hard water period. Their food sources are pretty much larvae and small critters that live on the bottom. With the use of an Aqua-Vu underwater camera its possible to target both species and understand their locations. It can be a very important piece of equipment at early ice conditions. Good electronics can be beneficial any time of the year but especially in the winter months. Humminbird makes several units for the ice angler, but the Helix 7 Ice is as good as it gets. With Lakemaster mapping and dual screen color graph and flasher it is the go to unit for ice fisherman.
Some of the good early season Bluegill and Crappie lakes to try in the Grand Rapids area are Little Cutfoot, Little Moose, Big Rice, Willow, Little Turtle, Long(off Scenic 7, Eagle, Big and Little Splithand. As always check conditions and check Ice as you walk. Contact local bait shops in area and get up to date report on conditions.
Grand Rapids, MN has a wide variety of overnight lodging from Hotels/Motels that are conveniently located in town near restaurants, shops and in-town trails, MN lake Resorts that offer cabins for rent by night and by the week, quaint and historic Bed and Breakfasts that are in town and located on Pokegama Lake, and Vacation Rentals that are located in town and on beautiful lakes. Find overnight lodging HERE.