Outdoors: Ice fishing gets ever closer!

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2007

By Dick Herfindahl, Water & Woods

This is it! The ice-fishing season has started to become a reality. There are portable icehouses popping up on lakes around the area and it won&8217;t be long before the permanent ones are forming the annual village on the channel of Albert Lea Lake. Maybe permanent is not the right term for houses that will eventually be removed unless they are donated for fish habitat.

There are a lot of lakes in our area that are excellent lakes for ice fishing. Fountain and Albert Lea Lakes top the list of area lakes. The walleye population is excellent and there are also some nice panfish to be had. Freeborn Lake has a history of producing some very nice &8220;jumbo&8221; perch and the same can be said for Pickerel with crappie and perch if you can find them. St. Olaf and Beaver Lakes are also good prospects for some nice panfish and Beaver has some dandy walleye.

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These are all lakes within our immediate area and if you travel 50 miles north there are numerous lakes holding every kind of fish you would want. Tetonka probably tops the list but Sakatah, Francis and Madison Lakes are also proven winners. Then there are German and Jefferson and the list is almost endless.

This is one of the first times since I was a kid that I am actually getting excited about doing some ice fishing. I think I&8217;m finally getting over the fishing contest thing I did as a kid. Standing on the lake all afternoon and maybe catching a small perch or a tiny sunfish. Not much to show for four hours of freezing but if I&8217;d have had the chance I would have gone back the next day. I always wondered what it would be like to have the lake to yourself and fishing wherever you wanted instead of just in a designated area.

I really do hope to find the time to do a little ice fishing this winter. My son Brian has a portable house and he plans to make sure I spend a little time on the ice this year. I&8217;m looking forward to it.

I would also like to head north to our cabin and try some of the lakes in that area. There are so many little lakes in the immediate area and I have a feeling they could produce some nice fish. It would be great to be able to spend the time on a secluded northern Minnesota lake fishing and afterwards head back to the cabin to the warmth of the fire.

I do believe that the kid in me always looks for that sense of adventure. There is nothing like being outdoors in the country or in the woods on a winter day or night and not hearing the sound of cars or people &8212; just nature. That, as they say, is &8220;priceless!&8221;


Here is a news release from Ray Hangge of the Southern Minnesota Chapter of Muskies, Inc.:

The December meeting of Southern Crossroads Chapter 54 of Muskies Inc. will be Wednesday Dec. 12, 6 to 9 pm at the Eagles Club in Owatonna.

This is our first Money for Muskies Banquet and silent auction fundraiser. A fun night with dinner and noted speaker Robb Kimm of Esox Angler magazine, contributing writer for Outdoor News, and other publications. Also, a chance to win door prizes, raffles, etc. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets are $18, kids 12 and under $8, available until Dec. 10 or before, if sold out. Call now 507-390-3549 or 507-259-5074. Open to the public. Support our effort to bring trophy fishing to southern Minnesota.

Check out our web sight, www.michapter54.com. We meet the second Wednesday of every month. Bring a friend and join Muskies Inc.

Here are just a few early ice fishing reports from around the state:

SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA &045; Ice thickness is about 5 inches on the area lakes with the exception of Tetonka with about 1 inch, hopefully this coming weekend (Dec. 8-9) it will be OK to get out on all the lakes with some degree of safety. The last storm we had wasn&8217;t much good for making ice. As far as fishing goes Lake Elysian is reporting some walleye keepers in the 16-19 inch range. Call before you go out to your area lake, no matter where it is at in the state. The Bait shops in your area will have a pretty good idea of the ice conditions.

UPPER RED LAKE &045; ATVs have been out on the lake about 1 mile and the ice is about 8 to 10 inches thick. The snow seems to be insulating the ice causing it not to freeze as well in some areas, that&8217;s where the difference in thickness comes in. There may be a few slushy spots caused by the weight of the snow, the slush is only about 2 inches deep and is not a problem getting through. There have been a few people out fishing and the reports have all been good, walleyes and a crappie here and there. For now, just ATVs and snowmobile traffic is advised, but it won&8217;t be long and we will be driving out. Good luck and be safe!

CROSBY &045; Ice reports for the area show that most lakes have good foot-travel ice, with some of the smaller lakes holding as much as 7 lakes holding as much as 7 or 8 inches. Most reports coming in are panfish reports, yet there were a few people out chasing walleyes this past weekend as well.

Some crappies were caught on Blackhoof and Perry as both lakes had good ice for fishermen to get out on. Serpent froze over on Friday, so we will have to wait and see how the ice will develop with the blanket of snow that covers the area. Pike have been caught by just about everyone that has been out whether they are fishing for them or not. Always remember to be safe and check the ice as you head out anywhere. Grouse hunters are finding lots of birds, with one group reporting an average of 3-4 birds per person per outing. Muzzleloader hunters have killed a few deer, and some of the archers in the area have reported seeing more activity in the woods the last few days.

Until next time play safe, enjoy the outdoors and watch out for thin ice! Remember to keep the troops that are serving our country today in your thoughts and prayers.