Good Time to Prepare for Open Water Fishing

Brainerd, MN—Brrr, the weather is cold and the fishing opportunities are limited. Now is a great time to prepare for open water, organize and stow your ice fishing gear, and look into the gear you need to repair/upgrade for the upcoming open water season.

Species such as sunfish, crappies, perch and channel catfish could be targeted as seasons are open year-round in Minnesota—a valid Minnesota fishing license is still necessary.

We target inland trout in the Cuyuna Area just east of Brainerd and have the most action with suspended fish (24 feet over 50–75 feet) or shallower rock edges. Jigging a Tungsten Jig or heavy, small profile spoons tipped with wax worms were the ticket. In open water spots, cast a bobber/tungsten jig/worm combination from shore to elicit bites.

You can fish for catfish (channel catfish) from shore, boat or fishing piers. Some common locations for targeting channel catfish in the Brainerd Lakes Area on the Mississippi River include: below the “Brainerd Dam/Potlatch,” Kiwanis Park, French Rapids, Green Point or Sylvan Dam (Crow Wing River). If I’m shore fishing, I will often use a medium-heavy spinning rod with a medium-large spinning reel (size 30) spooled with 30–50-pound braided line. There are several rigs and ways to catch catfish with a weight about 1–2 feet above the hook, and some common baits include worms/nightcrawlers, cutbait/deadbait, sucker minnows or chicken liver on about a 1/0 octopus hook. Cast to areas where slack water meets current, eddies or in current where it slows down/breaks. In a boat, you can often jig for them vertically in holes and behind slack-water breaks in current. I’ll usually let the current determine my jig weight but ½ to 1-ounce is a good start. Practice safe handling as they have sharp spines on their pectoral fins and dorsal fin; I hold them by the tail and under the belly. I’ll keep you updated for the panfish movements as we continue to monitor ice deterioration on many of our lakes.

Panfish will be in basin areas and shallow weed flats, which will be difficult to access without a watercraft (canoe, kayak, boat, etc.). Target crappies with two main approaches: (1) jig/plastic or (2) bobber/minnow presentations. We opt for using Lindy Fatboy Tungsten Jigs and Mister Twister Sassy Stingum plastics to catch our fish on most outings.

If you’re wondering where and how to fish the Brainerd Lakes Area or Mille Lacs Lake, tune in to Visit Brainerd for weekly fishing reports by Hawg Hunterz Guide Service LLC! As always, have fun, stay safe and Happy Hawg Hunting!! Learn more at Hawg Hunterz on YouTube.

Plan your ice fishing getaway today. Learn more about lodging available in Brainerd and Baxter, MN, check-out the calendar of events, and read our blog of things to do.