Minnesotans don’t hibernate in the winter

Published 1:34 pm Saturday, January 30, 2010

This is the time of year when there are a lot of opportunities for sports enthusiasts to enjoy. Football is almost ready to pack it in for another year but basketball, hockey and wrestling are going strong and will be until March or later. If you enjoy watching a diverse collection of sports then winter is the time to do it. If you are an outdoor enthusiast attending one of these events in person is a whole lot better experience than sitting and in the old, easy chair in front of the TV getting carpal tunnel in your hand from the remote.

Ice fishing is still going strong until the end of February and there are sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at one of our many state parks or you can do a little ice skating which can be enjoyed at one of the outdoor rinks we have available in Albert Lea. I have often thought about buying a pair of snowshoes and trying a little hiking in the woods or at one of the state parks. I wonder how that would be now with the hard crust that we have covering the snow? I also have to wonder if snowshoes have a gross weight limit on them?

There seems to be no lack of fishermen trying their luck on our area lakes. From reports I’ve heard the fishing on Fountain has been fair with some crappie and sunnies being caught along with some smaller perch. The same can be said for Albert Lea Lake where the fishing seemed to have slowed down some but there have still been some perch, crappie and walleye being caught. The banks of the channel below the dam were lined with fishermen during the warm spell we had last week. Those hardy souls that lined the shore were fishing open water in January and were rewarded for their efforts with perch and walleye.

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My grandson Trevor has spent pretty much every spare moment he can in his fish house on the channel. Although he hasn’t caught anything with bragging rights he has caught quite a few perch and some small walleye. I have the feeling he’d be there fishing regardless but catching fish always seems to make you want to come back that much more.

I mentioned earlier about getting out and enjoying the outdoors, well the DNR has a candelight ski, snowshoe, and hike scheduled for Feb. 20 at Gooseberry Falls near Duluth and has issued the following news release:

Frozen Gooseberry Falls is more beautiful than it’s been in more than 25 years, park manager reports

Park Manager Paul Sundberg, who has lived and worked at Gooseberry Falls State Park since 1983, said he couldn’t remember a winter when the ice formations along the frozen Lower Falls have ever been as beautiful as they are right now.

“Due to the cold temperatures and the rain we got during the Christmas Day storm, thousands of pounds of ice have formed in layers and created thousands of icicles across the entire Lower Falls area, and it’s absolutely stunning,” Sundberg said. “It’s the most beautiful I’ve seen it in all the years I’ve been here.”

Nearly 1,000 people visited the park to see and photograph this natural wonder on Jan. 16. The rest of the holiday weekend was equally busy, with many visitors taking advantage of the mild weather to get out and cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike, and geocache, Sundberg reported.

With a candlelight ski, snowshoe, and walk event scheduled for Feb. 20, Sundberg hopes the frozen waterfall will stay as beautiful as it is now for the many visitors expected that day.

“If temperatures and conditions stay the same, we’ll be in luck,” he said, “but if we get too much warmth, it will change considerably.”

Those who want to be sure to see this spectacular sight should probably plan to visit sooner than later, he advised. Because the trails near the falls are extremely icy, Sundberg also recommends that visitors wear ice cleats (for sale at the park’s Nature Store for $9.95) or other slip-resistant footwear and exercise caution in slippery areas.

A Minnesota State Parks vehicle permit ($5 for a one-day permit or $25 for a year-round permit) is required to enter any Minnesota state park. For more information about the Feb. 20 candlelight event, and to see photos of the Lower Falls at Gooseberry Falls State Park, visit “http://www.mnstateparks.info.”

A few fishing reports from around the state:

MILLE LACS — Walleye bite still going strong on Mille Lacs. Try jigging spoons, minnow heads, waxworms. Sherman’s Flats, Busters Flats have been good. Also 7-mile, 8-mile and 9-mile, and the cut on Sherman’s Flat. At Wigmam Bay anglers are getting perch in the middle of the bay, lots of big jumbos. Off of Brown’s Point, anglers catching perch. Smaller lakes around Ham Lake producing panfish. Shakopee and Platte also producing panfish, this is an evening bite.

ELY — Trout continue to dominate the fishing scene on the Ely area lakes. Burntside and Snowbank are giving up lake trout in the 3 to 6 pound range, with an occasional fish up to 11 pounds. Airplane jigs tipped with a ciscoe over 50 feet of water worked well. Tofte and Miners lakes are still producing rainbows and splake up to 20 inches. Work just off the shoreline in 15 to 30 feet on Miners, while the trout on Tofte are coming from less than 10 feet. Small black or pink jigs tipped with a waxie for rainbows, splake hitting small spoons. The crappie bite is improving as well on Fall, Farm, and Garden lakes. Small minnows under slip bobbers being the preferred method. Keep your eye on your flasher unit as some of the fish are suspending up to twelve feet from the bottom. Most fish are taken in twenty to thirty feet of water.

CROSBY — The walleye bite on Pelican is still productive in the afternoon and evening in 26-28 feet while Serpent continues to provide some action at abpped out the same depths as well. Rainbows on setlines and Frostee spoons tiwith a minnow head have been the best. Nokay, Clearwater, Cedar, Mahnomen, Upper Dean and Bass lakes have been kicking out a few crappies and an occasional walleye mixed in if on Clearwater or Nokay. Plenty of bluegill action can be had on Greer, Mahnomen and Milford throughout the day with some crappies mixed in. The northern pike action has heated up again with lots of lakes giving up some action. Goodrich, Adney, Little Blackhoof and Black Bear would be good bets for some tipup action with sucker minnows hung around the weeds. Lake trout reports over the weekend were generally slow, with just a few fish reported.

BRAINERD LAKES AREA — Decent fishing, nice weather! Fish for crappies 20-35 feet deep. Try a blue jig, rosie red minnow or waxworm. Gull, Hubert best lakes. Walleye action decent from 20-40 feet on jigging spoons tipped with a minnow or a red hook with a rainbow or a shiner. North Long or Pelican best lakes. Sunnies and pike are shallow, try nice size sucker minnows. For sunnies use a glow hook with eurolarvae or a waxworm. Panfish are shallow. For the Brainerd contest this weekend on Gull Lake, try glow jigs or a jigging spoon with a shiner or a rosie red minnow, in deeper water!

RAINY LAKE — Walleye are hitting on jigs tipped with minnows in 30 feet of water around Sand Bay and American Narrows. Crappie have been hitting on jigs and minnows too and several big northern pike have been pulled through the ice around Rainy Lake City. Walleye action has been best near sundown. Snowmobile trails are in pretty good shape and the groomers are operating on a regular schedule. There may be some thin patches where trails meet logging operations, but they are short. The Rainy Lake trails in Voyageurs National Park are all open and staked and area cross-country ski and snowshoe trails are open and tracked. For the most up-to-date information you can call the International Falls, Ranier and Rainy Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-325-5766.

Until next time, use caution on the ice and always take a little time to enjoy our great Minnesota outdoors.

Remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers throughout the year.