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Head out of town for some good winter fishing

Last weekend I made a trip to Lake of the Woods to get in on some of the good walleye and sauger action that has been happening there. We left extremely early in the morning on Friday with plans to get on the ice early enough to catch the morning bite. That plan was foiled by a delay just south of Baudette by a semi jackknifed across the roadway. Travel was also slowed by the weather. We didn't get set up on our spot until 10:30. No problem, we had the rest of the day, all day Saturday and Sunday until noon to fish the big lake.

The bite was steady with above average size fish. We caught more walleyes than saugers and even put a 28+ incher back after CPR (catch, photo & release) We put back well over our limit of eaters and a few other slot fish (walleyes between 19.5" and 28" must be put back). It was great day on the water and we had a lot of excitement and anticipation of icing walleyes over the next couple of days. Unfortunately you can plan plans, but you can't plan results. We weren't able to fish Saturday and Sunday and ended up having to come back home early. All of us have had those trips that don't go as planned and become challenged with difficulties and problems to solve. In the moment it can be very frustrating. In reflection it just becomes part of the uniqueness of the experience. Sometimes it becomes part of the more memorable part of the experience. I will admit that I like it a lot when things go as planned also.

I would highly recommend a trip to one of the Minnesota's hot winter bite locations. Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs, Winni, and Leech have long been some of the most sought after winter fishing destinations. Lake of the Woods has excellent ice and the bite is on. Many houses were being transported last weekend, as everyone is getting a latter start because of the type of ice and winter we have been dealing with to this point. The walleye bite typically slows in our area by the end of January, but stays more consistent on the big lakes.

Some of the upcoming fishing Derbies in our area will be taking place over the next few weeks. With the cold snap we have been in over the last week, ice conditions have improved and should be great for the area events. A multi-lake, multi-species fundraiser called "Fishing for a cure" will be held Jan. 28 headquartered out of the Roadhouse by Cormorant Lake. For more information on this contest, email

Feb. 4 will be the date for the Park Rapids derby hosted by the American Legion on Fish Hook Lake. The contest will run from 1-3:30 pm. Feb. 11 will be the date for several local fishing Derbies. The Cormorant Lake Sportsman's Club hosts a great kids derby on Lake Ida from 1-3:30 p.m. The Pelican Rapids JC's event will be on Lake Lida from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and the "Poles and Holes" tournament will be on Little Detroit from 12-3 p.m. One of the largest ice events in the state will be the "Eelpout Festival" on Leech Lake. This event will run from Feb. 16-19. You can get all the details for this event at Get out and make some memories.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)