METRO ICE FISHING-
- Here’s a hilarious, but true comment from one of our instagram followers: “Bro it sucks how there’s like a buffer time where 95% of open water fishing isn’t even possible or worth going out, yet you can’t ice fish.” We feel you, buddy! This is a hard time of year to be an angler in MN, but not all hope is lost.
- Welcome to winter everybody! We made it to December which means many of us are thinking hard about how much ice really constitutes “4 inches.” As always, be safe when thinking about going ice fishing and make sure there is at least four inches of clear ice before venturing out.
- The biggest factors for making good ice are consistently cold temps, low winds, and no precipitation. Small, shallow lakes will freeze over first. Be very mindful of these conditions before you go, and use extreme caution when out in early ice season.
Early season ice fishing can be very good. The fish are still in their fall feeding holes and eager to put on ample feed bags before we go into deep freeze. This means larger presentations and live bait are particularly effective. Consider testing small soft plastics and tungsten ice fishing jigs this year. If you haven’t already experimented with these options, you’ll be quick to notice how effective this material combination is. Wax worms and crappie minnows are always good options for early ice too.
Be very, very careful on the early ice around the metro. It usually takes until mid December before we can safely fish near MSP. Evan went to Moore Lake in Fridley this Monday and found 2.5” of ice. Things that contribute the most to making early ice: consistently cold temps, low winds, and no precipitation. We need a long spell of very cold temps to get things rolling (like we did.) We then need those temps to stay cold to maintain the ice. If it warms up even for a few days (like we just had the other week) it can make the freezing inconsistent and create weak spots. Wind is a major factor on large lakes because wind makes waves, and waves don’t freeze. Waves can also shatter or pile up any freshly formed ice. “Precipitation on early ice- especially snow,” Evan says, “can act like a koozie on a beer can. Snow will insulate the water and ice from the cold air and slow down the freezing.” As long as it snows and stays really cold, then the ice will keep growing at a slower rate. We expect to have fishable ice in the next couple weeks in the metro, judging from the 10 day forecast. Know before you go, and trust your gut if you don’t think it’s safe. Floating bibs, spud bars, and ice picks should be utilized to check ice thickness as you go and help you get out if you break through.
DRIFTLESS TROUT FISHING-
- State Parks and town sections have been fishing very well- if you’re stealthy! Common patterns for winter fly fishing for trout: copper john, zebra midge, disco midge, pheasant tail, rainbow warrior, purple or olive perdigon, san juan worm, and a squirmy wormy.
- Sometimes during warmer or snowy days, a winter midge hatch can occur. If this happens, throwing tiny, dark dry flies like an RS2 or Griffith’s Gnat can garner a strike.
- Use small and/or light strike indicators while fishing to minimize splashing on the surface.
Current conditions on the trout streams require small flies and thin tippets. Without these, it can be hard to get a fish to even look at a fly. The water is very clear and low from the lack of runoff, so fish are on high alert. Keep your profile low and wear drab colors to prevent spooking fish. Also, pay extra attention to other aspects of your approach: your cast, fast movements, wading route, your shadow, and dislodged sediment floating down river. On some days, any of these things can spook a fish. Bite windows will start to become very short, mostly during the mid-day. No need to get out early or stay late this time of year!
MISSISSIPPI & ST. CROIX FISHING-
- Winter on the major rivers is a deep and slow affair. Fish are particularly lethargic and will only move a foot or two to take the bait, fly, or lure. Concentrate on the large, deep pools.
- Live bait is particularly effective.
- When fishing with flies, go with heavier flies, sinking lines, and even split shots. If you’re not ticking bottom, it’s likely you’re not fishing deep enough.
The Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers are cold, cold, cold, but look for deep holes or warm water influxes that concentrate the fish and throw live bait or really slowly fished streamers. You might be able to pick up a couple fish including those that love the cold like pike, walleye, and crappie. Certain pockets attract many different fish species so be ready for anything to hit a rod. Heavy jigs, split shots, or sinking fly lines will be your friend.
Regardless of the area you’re fishing, fish species, or the method used, fish strikes are often very light. Be on alert for subtle takes, and remember- hook sets are free!
Safety should also be of utmost concern this time of year. Getting hypothermia is a big deal and can happen easily when you’re in or around water in the winter. Keep a pack of dry clothes and extra warm layers handy, fish with a friend or tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back, and bring a thermos of hot cocoa, soup, or cook a hot meal to warm you up mid-day. (Whisky is good for the soul, but actually makes you colder.) Stay safe and have fun!
FFA guides Ash, Evan, and Hiro recently went on (probably) the last float trip of the year on the Mississippi. They each got a few smallmouth bass on flies and live bait! Also- check out the new Fishing For All swag Evan is rocking.
Remaining Dates and times: 1/14, 2/11, 3/11 with two slots each day from 1-2PM and 2-3PM
Keep the rust off and come practice your fly casting!
We’ve rented out the gym at the downtown Dayton Minneapolis YMCA. Come cast for one hour with our guides! We can work on many different casting skills, including accuracy and double hauling . Beginner to advanced casters, welcome! Bring your own fly rod if you have one, otherwise a limited supply of fly rods will be available. Pre-registration is required:
Click here to Book Online! Phone: 612-293-8058 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn to Ice Fish Programs!
Fishing isn’t just a summer activity! Once our lakes freeze over, we can venture out and catch fish through the ice. We partner with various parks and rec departments around the MSP area. During our 2hr Learn to Ice Fish programs, we’ll show you how to use all the equipment, find/understand where the fish live in winter, and practice reeling in crappies, bluegills, and bass. All the equipment is provided, including one large Clam pop-up shelter and heaters! Programs are available Jan-March, depending on ice conditions. This is a wonderful winter family activity!
2023 Camps Coming Soon!
Camps are definitely the most fun thing we do. Come fish new water, master new skills, eat good food, and join a community of adventurous anglers! Here is a list of our camps coming up in 2023. We will post camp sign up’s in the next Fishing Journal on Dec 15th. Then the dates will go live to the general public on Jan 1st. Let us know which camps you’re interested in!
- Intro to Steelhead 4/13-16
- Intro to Trout 4/28-30 & 9/15-17
- Dry Fly or Die Trout Camp 5/12-14
- Bass Camp 6/16-18 & 7/14-16 & 8/18-20
- Intro to Musky 10/12-15.
We may even add a couple more overnight camps! We also plan to do some “Day Camps” for Downtown Carp, Hopper-Dropper Trout, Spey Casting, and more. Stay tuned!
NEW Fishing For All Lodging!
If you’re looking for a fishy weekend getaway, private camp experience, or a place to stay after your guide trip- we’re super excited to offer Fishing For All Lodging next season!
CAMP RIVER PIG
Evan and his wife, Gretchen, will be hosts of Camp River Pig on the St. Croix River! Just 1hr north of the metro and down the road from the HWY 70 landing, this property is the perfect jumping off point for all your St. Croix River adventures. Relax in one of our glamped out canvas tents which are outfitted with a wood stove, XXL cots with cushy memory foam mattresses, power stations to plug in your devices, and more. We want to ensure your stay is comfortable yet rustic. This is where all our Bass and Musky Camps will be held.
Ricky and his partner, Jenn, will be hosts of Troutopia on Trout Run Creek! 2hrs south of the metro, and just steps from the banks of Minnesota’s premiere trout stream. This quaint, two-bedroom house has all the amenities of home. You cannot beat its location: right on Trout Run Creek, and just 20 mins to Chatfield, Lanesboro, Preston, Rush Creek, and Whitewater State Park. A true Driftless trout fisher’s dream! All our trout camps will be held at this amazing property.
Booking for these properties will be available soon!
Bret’s Tying Table
By Bret Oeltjenbruns
Watch Bret tie up his Skinny Jig Frenchie nymph pattern. It’s quick, easy, and stupid effective!
Highlight a Watershed
Okay, this one isn’t really a watershed. But it is a locally known favorite during the winter months when the water is cold and the days get colder. Just upstream from the park sits the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant. The cold river water is used to cool the plant and the resulting discharge is many degrees warmer than the water up or downstream from this location. This section stays ice free year-round and is easily accessible from shore for wading. This area is also known as the Mississippi warm water discharge area. The fish will congregate here in the winter because of the warm water. On below zero days, the water and fishing will still be great. We’ve even seen blue wing olive mayfly hatches here in February on sub-zero days!
It’s very popular, so expect to fish with plenty of other like-minded folks who frequent the waters. This is the last, best open water fishing spot before the lakes freeze over enough to ice fish. After December, fishing pressure here drops dramatically.
Jerkbaits and soft plastics are very common lures used here.
For flies, any of your summer favorites should get a strike or two, especially white or olive streamers. It’s best to use a heavy sink tip fly line or add 1-2 large split shots onto your leader to get your fly near the bottom.
For the best results, medium sized suckers or fathead minnows on a jighead or split shot rig can be the ticket on days when the fish only want live bait.
Tyler Winter’s Rough Report
I was invited to contribute a monthly segment for the Fishing For All newsletter despite being underqualified. Maybe, underqualified is too harsh. I have exactly three qualifications. First, I fish obsessively. Second, I am an environmental scientist monitoring our region’s rivers and streams. Third, I believe fishing should be accessible, simple and productive.
The fishing world is full of salespeople, gatekeepers and influencers. They tell us to buy stuff, join a cult and travel to really, truly fish. But, all you really need to catch fish is a #8 hook and some line. You don’t have to join a catfishing, sturgeon, bass or trout fishing cult. Anglers who move between different fishing genres are rarely skunked because they switch to what is working. And, Minnesota’s changing seasons challenge anyone who is dogmatic about their fishing.
Minnesota has 165 species of fish (143 native) and 4,600 square miles of surface water. How far do you need to travel to find a place to fish?! Don’t get me wrong, I go to the BWCA every year. But I only have time to fish there for about 4 or 5 days. We live in a state with 11,842 lakes and ~90,000 miles of rivers. That is a lot of shoreline! If you can find a bit of shoreline between work and home, you can fish any day the weather is good.
Fishing more obviously means you’ll catch more fish. But not exactly in the way you might expect. If you fish the same water every week, you’ll notice patterns. Capitalizing on the patterns is what increases catches. I often explain this as “playing Clue”. Replace Colonel Mustard, a candlestick and a library with a redhorse, a creek and warm spring weather. Eventually the pattern will fail, and I make a mental note. For example, June of 2022 high water covered my favorite river spots. We called an audible and fished a place that was dry in 2021. We quickly got into the shorthead redhorse, and we had a new pattern: post-spawn redhorse, by the bridge, in high water.
That pattern held for a month until river levels dropped. One day the river was too low. After an hour without a fish, we went back to our old summer spots. A few minutes later, fish on.
Patterns are usually seasonal, although you may find patterns around weather or river flows. It doesn’t matter what clues you include in your patterns. What matters is they help you catch fish. And why do I track these patterns? Because fishing should also be productive. If you disagree, throw away your fish hooks. I’ll wait.
I lied at the beginning when I said I had three qualifications. It is actually four. I am also a native (rough) fish conservationist. Minnesota has 27 species of native “rough” fish. Historically these native fish were overlooked, if not maligned, by anglers and managers. Sometimes they are called “non-game fish”. However, I am here to tell you they are “game” for the avid angler. The northern hogsucker is probably Minnesota’s smallest sucker species and it can top two pounds.
The author and son with a northern hogsucker.
The largest sucker species, the bigmouth buffalo, can top 50lbs in Minnesota. They typically feed on zooplankton, so catching one of any size requires stealth and finesse.
Because these native “non-game” are often overlooked, they can provide some amazing unpressured fishing in the heart of the Twin Cities.
A freshwater drum caught below the Minneapolis skyline.
Targeting our native fish is fairly simple. Put half of a nightcrawler on a #8 hook. 12” up from the hook you’ll need a sinker. The sinker should be large enough that you can feel the bottom of the river. It can be fixed, but I prefer slip sinker rigs.
Over the course of this series, I’ll share seasonally relevant patterns, reports and fishing tips intended to make fishing simple, accessible and productive.
While no doubt many of you are familiar with trout routes, it bears mentioning for folks that haven’t used this mapping software before. Trout Routes allows you to explore trout streams in your area and even provides access points and other information so you spend less time looking for a spot and more time on the water.
From their website: “Ice Report is a mobile app that lets anglers in Northern climates share frozen lake ice data instantly. Stop scouring internet forums and Facebook Groups for information and join the Ice Report community to view and share vital ice measurements from lakes in your area!”
This app has filled a huge gap in the ice fishing community- staying up to date on current ice conditions. I’m sure we’ve all sought fishing advice on Facebook groups before, and are still recovering from the trauma and harassment we received. Avoid that all together and just use Ice Report! We’ve found it to be very reliable and offers the most up to date info on ice thickness. And it’s free! Like Evan always says, “Rule #1 is looking cool,” and you look really cool if you don’t fall through the ice.
Ricky’s Riverside Recipes
By Ricky Phetsavong
Streamside Dumpling Soup
The follow up to a winter stream side meal! Hot soup but with a twist. A simple dish that will take 5 mins to prep and 10 mins to cook on a jet boil!
- 3-4 frozen dumplings of your choice
- Frozen vegetables
- 1/2 a block of Chicken Bouillon seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
- 16 fl oz Water
- Silverware or chopsticks
- Jet boil
The prep work is simple. Mix the bouillon, sesame oil, and soy sauce in a container and mix it up. If you want to spice things up, just simply add the chili oil of your choice. In another container add your frozen dumplings and frozen vegetables.
Since this is going to be an easy one-pot dish, let’s make an easy broth to get started.
Start by adding water to the jet boil. When you see the water start to boil add the bouillon mix. Stir until the season is dissolved and the water is at a rolling boil. From here just simply add your dumplings and veggies to the broth. Turn your heat down and cook the dumplings until the are tender.
A simple stream side meal with minimal prep work that will keep you warm and feed on your next fishing adventures