Brad Laabs: Stay off the ice; Give Rainy River sturgeon a try
It would be prudent at this juncture to stay off the ice. We will upswing to a trend of warmer weather this week and the ice will deteriorate significantly. No perch, crappie, or sunfish is worth an ice cold swim. Call it quits for the ice season and start focusing on some of the open water that is currently available, and all the soon to be available open water fishing on area ponds and lakes. Rivers and creeks are open, as are some open shoreline areas, river inlets and outlets, and their delta areas. Shore fishing is available and can be an option if you are desperate to wet a line locally.
A visit with a local “leecher” was very encouraging for the prospects of bait availability for “opener”. He will be testing ponds over the next week or so, and will be a couple weeks ahead of last year for the start of the leeching season. Last year he was not able to get started until May 5. Many fishermen have been concerned about possible bait shortages for the early open water season. The end of the ice season was a challenge for bait shops to keep up minnow supplies in their stores due to the difficulty of the bait suppliers getting to their traps. My prediction is that by the end of this next week, bait dealers will be back to business as usual, and the outlook is good for the live bait supply. Night crawlers are already available locally and the sturgeon fishermen are buying by the flat.
The Rainy River and four mile bay on Lake of the Woods will start drawing sturgeon fishermen now. The catch and release season for sturgeon is open until April 23, after that the open season for sturgeon continues for catch and release or harvest of one sturgeon until May 23. See your MN DNR regulations for specifics on sturgeon harvest.
Night Crawlers loaded on a hook on a bottom rig is the bait and presentation of choice for these monster dinosaur fish. Fish from an anchored position above the holes in the river or on the channel edge in the river or four mile bay.
Many of the avid sturgeon chasers use medium heavy or heavy bait casting rods with quality bait casting reels spooled with heavy line weights to handle these strong fighting and heavy fish.
Trout fisherman are also back into their game now with the stream trout season opening of April 11. The Straight River that flows from Straight Lake by Osage through the Park Rapids area is full of quality sized brown trout up to five pounds.
Trout anglers consider themselves to be as much hunters and stalkers as fisherman to chase these highly spooky fish. A stealthy approach to fish holding locations such as holes, bends in the river, cut banks, current breaks and seems, is extremely critical for trout fishing success.
If none of the other options available now interest you, be patient through the “tweener” time, and before you know it you’ll be floating your boat on one of the local lakes.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)