Whether you are a person that loves snow or one that could do without it, it’s hard to deny the beauty it brings to the area. Over the past month the Alexandria area has seen a few quality snow falls and, based on the forecast for next week, there’s more on the way. Even with deep snow across most of the area, there are plenty of anglers out catching fish. Most of the bigger lakes have nice plowed trails out to the fishing areas, making ice fishing possible for anyone willing to give it a try.
I’ve predominantly been fishing crappie and sunfish the last few weeks. For the most part these fish have been in mixed schools holding near the outer edges of the deeper basin areas. Look at a lake map and you’ll see these areas I’m talking about. I look for deep water (25’-40’) that tapers up to shallower water (10’-15’), where they like to feed in the spring. The fish have been roaming the edge of these breaks during the day in 16’-20’ feet of water in large schools. Once night falls these same fish break apart and cover these areas actively searching for food. Being the fish change their feeding habits from day to night, your fishing tactics will also need to change.
I personally like to fish during the day better than the evening hours, but they both have their pros and cons. During the day I generally have little competition and get to fish where I want. This allows me the ability to locate fish and catch fish more consistently. The down side is you have to search for your fish. You must drill a series of holes in these transition areas until you read fish on your locator. If you don’t read fish on your locator, keep looking. Sometimes I find fish after drilling only 10 holes or sometimes it takes 50 or more, but once I find fish there will generally be a large school of them. Ideally I like to see fish stacked up on the bottom a few feet thick. Once you find fish like this usually you’ll be able to stay on them throughout the day as they don’t seem to move very far. My favorite technique in this situation is to use a #12 Lindy Toad tipped with a couple Euro larva or a wax worm. I’ll drop my lure down just above the fish and make them chase it up slowly. By making them chase it up they will generally bite the jig more aggressively.
As the sun drops near the horizon, these same schools of fish will break apart to look for food. If you’re on a popular lake you’ll see by now that more and more people are coming out to fish the evening bite. Many people enjoy this type of fishing because it’s very social and you don’t have to search to find fish. You simply drill a couple holes in the area I mentioned above and set your lines a few feet off bottom. The fish will be roaming the area in search of food, so that’s why sitting in one spot can be very productive after dark. In this situation I like to use small #8 or #6 Frostee jig tipped with a small crappie minnow under a bobber. The downside to this technique is you’re at the mercy of the fish to come to you and sometimes you wait and wait and they never come. They might pass by your lure 20 feet away and you’d never know it. This is why one night can be really good and the next can be slow.
The two techniques I just described are both very effective ways to catch crappie, but based on the type of fisherman you are and the equipment you have one might suit you better than the other. For example, day time fishing requires someone with a desire to move and search for fish. You also need a locator and a sharp auger. Whereas when you’re evening fishing for crappie you can be more relaxed and sit in one spot. All you have to do is set up in the general area with a couple crappie minnows and wait for the fun to start. Either technique will produce fish, but one is more work and the other more of a gamble. Just decide which one fits you best and get out there!
Note: Walleye and Northern fishing recently closed to Minnesota anglers on Feb 24th and will reopen again on May 11th of this year. Many anglers hang up their ice fishing rods for the year after walleye season closes, but in reality the month of March holds some of the best fishing of the year. The perch, crappie and sunfish simply go on a feeding frenzy this time of year. Couple that with warmer, longer spring days and there’s no place I’d rather be than on the ice chasing aggressive “late ice” panfish. The Alexandria area lakes are usually safe to fish most of the month of March. If you ever have a question about the ice conditions feel free to listen to the latest audio report or contact me via email. Good luck fishing!