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Brad Laabs column: The panfish are biting, and the tullibee chase is on

Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs

The fishing season for walleye and northern has been closed in our area since midnight Wednesday. If you continue to fish this ice season you need your new 2018 license as of Thursday, March 1. Your new license will be good until Feb. 28, 2019.

Sunfish, crappie, perch, and tullibees are the sought-after fish now in our area and the season for them never closes.

As of midnight Monday, March 5, dark houses and shelters need to be removed from lakes south of the east-to-west lines created by Highway 10, Highway 34, Highway 200 and Highway 2 all the way to the Wisconsin border.

North of that line, houses will be able to remain until Monday, March 19. The extra two weeks can be motivation to move a house from the south end to the lakes north of 10 and 34. It is best now to stick to plowed roads, plow your own road, or travel by sled, as the snow accumulation of the last week has made travel difficult off trail unless you are traveling by sled.

When houses are removed they cannot be left at the public accesses. Houses that are left on the lakes after the removal dates leave the owner at risk of prosecution and fines. Houses can be confiscated. The contents inside the shelters can be confiscated and sold, or destroyed.

Keep an eye on the weather and make plans for your removal. Many houses will be more difficult to get off now than they were a week ago due to the snow, and blowing and drifting.

The warmer weather can make for wet, heavy snow and slushy and slippery conditions. Make sure you are prepared for your removal. Take help along with a breaker bar, jack, shovels, sand, and proper weather gear. Make sure you break loose your blocks from the ice and take them with you. Do not leave any garbage on the lake or at the access.

You can still put houses out and fish in them as long as they are removed with you when you leave. You cannot leave a shelter unoccupied after the shelter removal date. Portables become the best option as we progress to the end of the ice season

Watch weather and ice conditions closely, as things can change in a hurry this time of the season. Even on days we are slightly below freezing, melting takes place, and ice can break down due to of the power of the sun and the additional hours of sunlight now.

The crappies, sunfish and perch bite continue to be active in our area. The popularity of chasing tullibees has been increasing significantly the last several years. That bite has turned on over the last week and reports of numbers and quality have been coming off multiple lakes in our area.

Tullibee chasers tend to keep locations private, as the same areas on the same lakes tend to produce year after year at this time of the season.

You can go on the DNR website and research the lakefinder pages to find data on area lakes. If they have "tullies" it will be listed along with the population compared to state averages and the size ranges and strength of different year classes. Personally ... my attention has already turned to the early season open water opportunities.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)