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Black Hills Area Fishing Report
Warm and sunny temperatures this week have made for some excellent weather to get out on some ice, but the nicer weather has also brought on a high barometer, causing fish to be more lethargic. Patience and lure selection could be the name of the game for those who are looking at going out.
This weekend, temperatures are expected to be in the high 40s or low 50s, but the pressure will be heading downward as well starting Saturday, which could lead to some more aggressive fish and near perfect weather for families or groups. Caution is advised, however, for those looking to hit up the walleye lakes or the main body of Pactola. With these conditions in mind, here's the current reports from area lakes:
Pressure ridges have been observed on Pactola's main area which has just recently had walkable ice on it. The weather could make for unsafe conditions for Laker fishermen looking to get out so be extremely careful. It might be a good idea even to wait for the return of colder weather before getting onto Pac's main body.
The southside beach and dock areas have a good bluegill bite going on at present and Jenny Gulch still has good ice for ATV traffic. As one gets closer to Bear Gulch, however, caution is advised as the ice is much thinner there. Some pike and Laker activity has been reported.
Reports from Angostura and Orman Dam have been spotty this week, with ice conditions varying due to the warmer weather. Most bays on Angy are good for foot traffic, though ice thickness varies, and catches have been slow. Orman has been seeing some crappie action by the dam and Gaden's Point is seeing most of the walleye action. Reports from Orman also say the shad population is thinning, which could spur on better walleye action soon.
Deerfield has been seeing a lot of fishing activity, having the safest ice in the Hills with ice anywhere from 16" to 22" reported lake wide. Perch are biting fairly throughout most of the lake with most activity situated in the Gold Run area. Rainbows continue to be caught in the area as well in less than 10' of water.
On the west side, some decent Laker activity on shiners has been reported. Sheridan Lake, site of this Sunday's SD Walleyes Unlimited Perch/Pike tournament, has seen a drastic slowdown in the perch bite with fish scattered and roaming as they settle into midwinter patterns. A lot of searching will be required for tournament goers.
Only pike reports have been coming from the 385 area of the lake in 8'-10' of water. Stockade is seeing a decent panfish and bass bite, though patience is required. Shiners on dead sticks have been working on bass. Northland's new Mini Predator rig has been a killer on them. Pink or red jigs tipped with red plastics or red maggots has been a winning ticket on pannies. Lots of small pike are also being caught lake wide.
The trout lakes (Sylvan, Center, Lakota, Mitchell, Legion, Horsethief) have seen much activity with all lakes seeing catches of trout, mostly on small side. Some bigger specimens have been reported out of Lakota. Multiple presentations have been working on small jigs tipped with plastics or maggots or dead sticks with crappie minnows on them.
With the nicer weather this weekend, it's a great time to get out and enjoy some time on the ice, whether in the Sheridan Lake tournament or just for fun. Most of the lakes have thick ice on them and the fish should be on the prowl as well. It could be a good time to get those unaccustomed to ice fishing out for a try. So be sure to soak up some midwinter sunlight and wet a line soon!
Golden Morning in Gold Run
Rare is the day when nearly every condition is near perfect. Most days, if it's sunny, it's also windy or the barometric pressure is sky high. Or if it isn’t windy, it's raining or snowing. Or if it's sunny and not windy, the fish aren't biting.
Getting all these conditions to line up for what could be considered perfection is about as rare as a solar eclipse most days. But all three factors nearly lined up last weekend to create what could be considered an almost perfect morning of fishing.
We had a couple of friends visiting from the east side of the state for some hockey and ice fishing action. Saturday morning, Chad and I didn't have much success on Pactola Reservoir, but I was confident that the Gold Run area at Deerfield would provide some trout action for us.
Upon arrival and getting the wheeler to start (had some issues last season), weather conditions were shaping up quite nicely. There were a few clouds in the sky and surprise, surprise, no wind yet. I already knew the air pressure was in our favor so now we would see what the morning would bring us.
Aside from the temperature, which was around 10-15 degrees, we really couldn't have asked for a better morning of fishing! Once the clouds cleared and the sun came up over the hills, the stars seemed to have aligned in our favor.
No sooner had Chad dropped his line in than he had a fish on. As soon as I started fishing after setup, I was finding the fish to be aggressive and on the prowl. Using a hard cadence to attract the fish in the clear water, we both used Clam Pro Tackle Drop jigs tipped with Maki plastics for some of the morning, though I switched it up a bit to using a Panfish Leech Flutter spoon, choosing a special color that my daughter picked out for me for Christmas.
The trout would absolutely smoke the Flutter spoon on the drop, providing some great action on my St. Croix CCI perch/eye rod paired with a Piscifun ICX-5 reel. If you haven't had a chance to try out one of the CCI rods or a Piscifun reel, be sure to check them out! They are a sweet combo for sure.
For a few hours, we were treated to sunny skies, no wind, and biting fish, a rare trifecta indeed in the Hills. And for the most part, the trout were good sized and very healthy. By the time the fish moved on and we started packing up, we had caught dozens of fish each and had nothing but smiles on our faces.
If the temperature had been about 15 degrees warmer, I think it would've been THE perfect morning, but we didn't complain about our frozen hands or gear that would need thawing. The elements cooperated for one day as did the fish. It was a golden morning in Gold Run for sure!
Minnesotans fish free with kids Jan. 18-20
Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend is this Saturday, Jan. 18, through Monday, Jan. 20.
During the weekend, Minnesota residents age 16 or older can fish or dark-house spear without an angling or spearing license if they take a child younger than 16 fishing or spearing.
“Ice fishing is a fun way to get outdoors during Minnesota winters,” said Jeff Ledermann, education and skills team supervisor with the Department of Natural Resources. “If you want to start, try asking someone familiar with ice fishing and ice conditions to take you out or check out an organized activity.”
Events happening during the weekend include:
Lake Bemidji State Park, 1-3 p.m., kids 8-15 can come out for an afternoon of ice fishing on Lake Bemidji.
Halfmoon Landing near Kellogg, 1-3 p.m., equipment and bait provided and space is limited.
Fishing events during the rest of the season can be found on the DNR’s state parks and trails events calendar and the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, which also has events for families.
Ice conditions vary greatly this season and can be deceiving. There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. Always check local ice conditions before heading out to a lake or river. Visit mndnr.gov/icesafety for ice safety guidelines and the DNR’s learn to ice fish page for more information about ice fishing.
dnr.state.mn.us Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend is this Saturday, Jan. 18, through Monday, Jan. 20.
Need to Work
Some days when you hit the ice, the fish are easy to find and catch, and makes for a very fun and rewarding day. Then there are days that you really need to work and look, drill many holes and keep on the move.
When the days are like this, after many fruitless holes, the feeling of satisfaction overwhelms you once you have located the fish. Then comes the jig size, bait of choice as well as the colors that these fish are looking for.
Had started working an inside edge that typically holds these pumpkinseeds, went from 21 feet of water up to 15 feet on the upward slope of structure. There were plenty of perch in the area but that wasn’t what we were looking for.
After a couple of hours of not find the gills, moved to the deep hole of the bay to see if the crappies had moved in yet. Was a bit early in the afternoon for my liking but did find a couple of slabs, but they weren’t around either.
Looking back to where I had started the day, I could see that there were older holes further out into the deeper water and wanted to go back and try to find the gills again. Didn’t take long and there they were, they were holding out in 21 feet of water.
Most of them were holding 3 to 4 feet off the bottom and if you could find several of these fish, they were more actively feeding as opposed to the single fish that you would find. Using a Clam Pro Tackle Swirl Drop jig with a pink Maki Butti, the tantalizing action of the long thin tail was more than the fish could resist.
Clam Outdoors Vexilar Inc Cold Snap Outdoors
Giving Back to Our Veterans
Last month, I was asked by J.R., one of the leaders of a local veteran's group called Casting Vets, if I would be willing to help some members of their group with an on-ice trip. I jumped at the chance and said yes immediately!
What an honor it would be to help these guys out who sacrificed so much to keep our country safe! If there was even a small way to give back to them, to show how much their service was appreciated, this was a way.
So, we planned for up to six members to join me, our local fishing plastics maker Anthony (who is also a veteran), and a couple of helpers with the trip. Stockade was chosen because of its proximity to the group's location in Hot Springs. Last Saturday, Anthony and I scouted the lake for spots. While finding fish wasn't a problem, getting them to bite was another matter.
The panfish were extremely finicky, most likely due to a pressure system that was coming through the area, causing high winds and a rising barometer. With the hard bite conditions and knowing that most of the members hadn't ice fished before or didn't have much experience, I came up with a backup plan to head to Legion Lake three miles east of Stockade for some trout action should the pannies not cooperate.
On Sunday, with holes drilled and rods rigged up with Clam Pro Tackle jigs and plastics provided by Anthony, the guys showed up and were ready to go. I gave them all quick lessons on ready their Vexilar screens and the fish showed up again, providing quick lessons to the guys, though they weren't in much of a biting mood.
Some of them caught several bluegills and crappie, but after a few hours, I had the group move to Legion, where a decent trout bite gave everyone a chance to catch some fish through the ice. They all seemed to have a good time and good camaraderie on the ice, and it was fun to listen to their stories and hear the chatter and see the smiles when they brought in a fish. After we were done, we all chatted about the experience and are planning another trip sometime later this winter and I, for one, am looking forward to it!
Our veterans and current service men and women have done so much for us to help keep our country safe and allow us to lead the lives we do and enjoy the activities that we love. This trip was just a small way for me to say thank you to them though nothing can truly repay them for their service.
Be sure to thank veterans for their sacrifices they made for us and get involved with groups in your area. These groups are around to help veterans stay active in their communities, to provide places to discuss any problems or issues they may be having, or keep them safe as their war experiences may have left them with physical disabilities or mental traumas that most of us will not understand who weren't there with them. Give back to them and show them your appreciation, even if it's something small. You might provide them with a new experience and a great new memory!
DNR simplifies spring turkey hunting licenses
Lottery application now only required for three large wildlife management areas
Hunters hoping to bag a tom turkey with a firearm this spring will no longer be restricted to a single permit area. With the exception of three major wildlife management areas, a spring turkey license will provide the opportunity to hunt all permit areas in the state.
Beginning March 1, all spring turkey hunters can purchase a license over-the-counter. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is announcing the season details now so hunters can apply for permits drawn in a lottery for the three wildlife management areas.
“We’re making it easier to hunt wild turkeys in Minnesota,” said Leslie McInenly, wildlife populations program manager with the DNR. “Turkey restoration has been a great success for the state and, over time, we’ve been able to relax and simplify hunting regulations.”
dnr.state.mn.us Lottery application now only required for three large wildlife management areas
Alexandria Area Report:
Working Through the Slush!
The first part of the season looked promising with solid ice on the lakes and most started with 4-7 inches until what most anglers fear. A snow storm with a rain mix! Just hated to see this but it made a rough go as far as travel and making sure that you could find solid footing for fishing. Like they say, where there is a will there’s a way. This weekend, after some colder temperatures the lakes firmed up and the conditions are surely better than they have been. I for one hate wading through slush and water on the ice as I’m a walker on the ice and it can make it a long day if your fighting rough conditions.
So, the ice thickness is 13” on several of the lakes in the Alexandria Area and there is car and trucks out and about…..but I would be veery careful and suggest wait until the ice is a little thicker. And we see it every year, a vehicle will go down in the unexpected area. I pray we don’t see that but, USE CAUTION!
Getting on the lake I headed to an area that didn’t have a crowd, because I hate fishing around crowds. Never really have the luck and the fish are usually harder to catch, but that’s me. I guess the way I like to put it is……I would rather set my hair on fire than to fish in a crowd. But that’s just me. Anyways, I setup in an area that I have had luck in the past and it took a bit but I found some active fish in 17-19FOW and they were 2-5 feet off the bottom. Both crappies and bluegills were moving through and as the afternoon got later, the fishing was fantastic and the best presentation was the Northland Tackles Punch Fly Jig. It’s compact and the details are really cool. Didn’t need bait and the Punch Jig really looks like a water bug and the crappies and bluegills ate it up. The other presentation that was successful was the Northland Tackle Tungsten Fireball tipped with a red plastic tail. It gets it down quickly especially when you have active schools of fish.
As we get into January, the bite will start to change a bit. What do I mean by that? The fish will start moving a little slower and will be looking for green weeds. Which means, shallows! But for now look in the 17-20FOW next to break lines for the fish and you’ll have success.
Until next time, be safe and we will see you in the outdoors.
HSM Outdoors's cover photo
Fishing with my Pops aka "Mr. Walleye"
We all have our mentors from our youth growing up in the outdoors. Many of us have dads, moms, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins, or friends who got us into the outdoors and kept us coming back for more.
They were the ones who inspired our passion for fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, or dozens of other outdoor recreational activities. My dad was mine. My first fishing memory is when I was 5 and we were shore fishing and reeling in bullheads and silver bass from one of the smaller lakes near my hometown in Lemmon, SD.
My pops have been an avid fisherman for as long as I can remember. Specifically, he's been an avid walleye fisherman for that time. When we fished, we usually went for 'eyes. When we were in the boat, we went for 'eyes. Once he had his boat, we typically didn't do much shore fishing and once winter arrived, we went for, you guessed it, more walleyes. And it was always fun to go fishing with him regardless of how well the fish were biting.
We could usually keep ourselves entertained in the boat and on the ice, well there was certainly no issue there with skating, sledding, being pulled behind his four-wheeler on a sled, or general horsing around with my younger brother. But he also instilled in us a respect for what we caught and even before it became the mantra of millions of current fishermen and women, he practiced catch-and-release almost exclusively.
We only kept a few of the good eating sizes and anything bigger always went back into the water. This passion and these lessons I still follow to this day, other than his mantra of "if it isn't a walleye, it isn't a fish." I prefer variety in my catches, for which I endure much ribbing from him, especially when I target pannies.
After a month of sending him pictures of my fish I was catching from the ice, he decided he wanted to get out on the ice and would "put up" with some trout fishing. It's not often that "Mr. Walleye" wants to fish for something else, but I took advantage of it to take my dad out on the early ice here in the Hills recently. And he didn't require any lessons on trout fishing since it's like walleye fishing other than using my plastics since I rarely use live bait except on my Arctic Warriors.
He was happy just being on the ice finally and he managed to catch several nice 'bows while I reeled in a number myself, including a nice lake trout on one of the Warrior setups. I wished I'd let my dad reel it in, but he told me to grab it. He used to do the same thing whenever he caught something good in the boat, to pass the rod to myself or my brother to reel in.
It's reasons like that why he was my fishing mentor and why I have the same passion that he has, albeit my favorite fish is pretty much whatever takes the bait. Him on the other hand...........
I hope others have been inspired in the same way I was as a kid. It's this same inspiration that I hope to pass onto my daughter as she grows. I want her to have a lifetime of outdoor experiences and a respect for what the outdoors offers us. She'll just be a multi-species catcher like dad, and I'll let grandpa show her what walleye fishing is like!
THE HIGH FLYING HALF MILE is the fastest dirt track in Minnesota located at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Racing through the summer on Saturday nights with the green flag dropping at 6:30pm.