Brad Laabs: Adventures in ice fishing on Lake of the Woods

I got a chance to run up to Lake of the Woods last Friday night, and got in a full day of fishing on Saturday and a half-day fishing on Sunday.

I traveled up with Brian Tangen (another area guide) and we fished with Leroy Howard (a former DL resident) that has now retired to Rainy River/Lake of the Woods.

We went out on Adrian’s Resort road that heads out over Four Mile Bay, Pine Island and extends out over the basin 18 miles now. We pulled a wheel house and tried to get to the rocks of Knight’s or the Bridges close to the Canadian border along the east.

We set up in 32-34 feet of water in the mud basin as on day one we could only get to about three-quarters of a mile from Knights with the truck and wheelhouse.

We had consistent action from 9 a.m. when we were finally set up until we pulled the pin at about 5 pm. We caught 35 walleyes/sauger with a couple too big (biggest was 21.75 inches), 15 too small (10-13 inches), and the rest were good eaters from 14-17 inches. We also caught a half dozen nice size tullibees.


Sunday we took a different trail over to the east off the main road and tried to get to the rock piles that make up the Bridges. We went further north and east, but still couldn’t get to the rocks.

We were able to set down in the basin in 34 feet in the middle of three rock piles, but about a quarter of a mile from each. We fished from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and iced a dozen walleye/sauger, with half of them being nice 14-16 inch eating size. We had another half-dozen tullibees again as well. We had fish showing up constantly, but enticing the bites was more challenging.

This is the time of the year the rock piles on Lake of the Woods can really produce well, and give up some bigger fish. Anglers traveling by sled with portables have no problem getting to rock piles now. Some of the resorts have houses set up and are able to get anglers there with the “bombers” (old military track vehicles used for years now to transport anglers).

The resorts were continuing to plow roads and expand the coverage area. By this weekend and the next few, you may be able to get trucks and wheel houses to both Knights and Bridges. If not, the basin mud continues to produce both walleyes and sauger, but mostly smaller sauger. It won’t be long before the fish start migrating back to the south shore and you won’t have the 45 minute to an hour drive out onto the lake.

Starting this Sunday, you need your new Minnesota fishing license that will be good until next Feb. 28. If you continue fishing locally for panfish, perch, or tullibees, get your new license and you will also continue to have good ice conditions for at least the next few weeks.

Lake of the Woods ice was about 30 inches thick, and that season will keep going until April 14, and fish houses won’t need to come off up there until March 31 (or deteriorating ice…whatever comes first.) Ice houses locally south of Highways 10 and 34 need to be removed by midnight Monday, March 2.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)


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