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Brad Laabs: Lake of the Woods, Red Lake don’t disappoint

I thought I would share about my ice fishing trip to Lake of the Woods and Red Lake from last week. On Saturday we headed out in the morning to fish of the edge of a rock pile that, for a number of years now, has consistently produced some big walleyes. This spot gives up 25-29” fish consistently on almost every trip. Sometime you may catch one, and sometimes several. You can also count on this location to produce some other quality eating size fish. This can be a big number location at times, but the real draw is the big fish opportunity.

Well, this trip, no big fish. Over 50 walleyes came through the holes, but not one was over 16 inches! Most fish were the 13-15” year class.

This location is also a spot that produces mostly walleyes with only a small mix of sauger. This trip found the sauger out biting the walleyes about 2-1. A few jumbo perch, a couple of monster tullibee, and an eelpout also made way to the surface. I have no complaints. It was a blast. It just shows the unpredictability that is fishing.

The bite activity was in about 30 feet of water off the edge of the rocks where it transitions to softer bottom. The best bite was on gold and pink “stop sign” or the gold and red Swedish pimple (both tipped with a shiner minnow head). Shiners defiantly “outshined” fathead minnows. The jigs way out produced the dead sticks.

The ice is about 30 inches thick, with a little over a foot of snow on top of the ice. You will need extensions on the augers now on LOW.

It was extremely busy all over the lake. You need to plan ahead if you are going to do a trip on a weekend, as motels and resorts are booked tight. If you can make your trip in the mid-week you will find it easier to make your accommodations. Roads are well plowed, and the trails for the track vehicles and snowmobiles are well groomed.

Sunday was a chance to get out and fish Red Lake. I have not been on the ice on Red in years. The last time was when we were catching the big crappies during the boom years of about 10 years ago.

The open water walleye bite on Red has been good for a number of years now, and the word is, that the ice bite has also been very good for a few years now.

After visiting with a couple anglers that had been out on the ice the previous day, a visit with a winter Red Lake guide, and some info from the bait shop, it was easy to feel good about the plan for Sunday.

The word was that during the severe cold front, the fish were holding in 13-15 feet of water (that is as deep as it gets there). With the nicer weather, the most success had been coming out of the 9-11 foot water over the last several days. Setting up in 10 feet of water worked just fine.

Red did not disappoint. Over 20 walleye for the day between 14-19 inches (with most being 17 inches). The fish are fat and healthy. A number of resorts along the south east and east side of upper Red plow great roads out to fish holding areas. A ten dollar bill gets you on the lake to use their roads. You only need to go out about three miles to be on some great fishing.

The word is out and Red is busy also, but not as busy as Lake of the Woods. You can be on Red in three hours or less, and it is another hour or two to get where you want to be on Lake of the Woods. Red had about 22 inches of ice with about 15 inches of snow on the surface. Some slushing issues are present in some areas. Jigging with fathead minnow heads was the ticket, and gold spoons was the best color and bait.

We are now hitting the stretch of ice season that starts to have derbies every weekend somewhere. Next weekend, one of the biggest ice events is held over in Brainerd on Gull Lake. The event will be at Hole-in the-Day Bay on Gull Lake and the competition will be from noon to 3 p.m. You can get on the ice any time after 8 a.m. Our area has a number of events coming up soon. I am thinking we still have about six more weeks of our local ice fishing season left.

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

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