Winter’s grip seems to have a strangle hold on Northern Minnesota, but on the plus side it has prolonged the late ice fishing season. Bluegills offer the best chance of finding a species that will be in your bucket at days end. Locations have started to change and being conscious of these changes can be important. In many of the area lakes bluegills and even perch have been in slightly deeper water, but with lengthened days and change in weather bluegill, perch, and even crappies will begin to move shallower. At first the depth changes may be only a few feet but start to look in depths of 12 to 15 feet as opposed to 20 feet or more.
Panfish will start to stage before the spawning season, and they will feed heavily on forms of larvae as they move shallower. Mapping that is available can pinpoint areas to try. Outside depths of shallow bays can be key locations to try. For perch contacting locations that have small rubble rock can be the areas that perch will spawn. Another reason to look at Humminbird Lakemaster Mapping is that it will explain the bottom content and show nearby structures that are prime spots for perch and other panfish moving toward spring.
Looking over mid-range to shallow areas is an important intel before going out on the ice for late the last chance at panfish. Many bays with weeds can be key spots for fish, especially if there is deeper water at the entrance to the bay. Bluegills and crappies will stage on the outside edges before moving shallower. These would be those depths of 12-15 feet that were previously mentioned. Drill several holes from deep to shallow and hole hop until you find fish that will bite. Small Northland tungsten jigs with a wax worm or several euro larvae can be the ticket to success. Stay as lite as possible for bluegills tend to mouth a bait at times and detect a heavier jig as foreign and spit it out before you can set the hook. Lite line in the 4-pound test range is essential and can handle anything in the panfish category.
Some of the good lakes to try in the late season are Pokegama, Bass in Cohasset, Little and Big Splithand, Little Moose, Little Cutfoot, Dunbar, and Big Rice. Get out and enjoy the last days of ice fishing for open water. Be careful as always and stay away from any places on the ice that are discolored. Spring is on the way.
Please note that while we are still ice fishing in the greater Grand Rapids, MN area, use caution as you are out on late season ice. No ice is safe ice. Right now, foot traffic is the preferred mode of travel on ice. Check the ice as you walk out further to ensure the ice is good.