Welcome back for another fishing report in the Brainerd Lakes Area of Minnesota!

Fishing has been great, and this winter has been mild! Yes, it was raining last week, and this week is making ice early, and warming as the week progresses. We’ll continue to stress the importance of ice safety, especially at this time of excitement for anglers. I’ve continued the lookout for small, shallow lakes (under 500 acres) with as much as 8–10 inches of “safer ice” to walk on and fishing on 4–8 inches of ice—ice is never 100% safe. Make sure you’re checking ice conditions frequently; stay off ice less than four inches. Safety First: The MN DNR has many great resources online to help determine ice safety, immersion survival, etc. Find them here.

On smaller, shallower bodies of water, and in weedy bays or shallow basins, panfish and northern pike remain active. Catch crappies in bays and weedy shorelines under 14-feet of water. Jig crappies with 1/16-ounce or 1/32-ounce jig tipped with a Mister Twister Sassy Stingum, 1/16-ounce Lindy Frostee spoon (our go-to), or glide-bait style lure such as a Vexan Crystal Reaper. Aggressive jigging will bring schools in, although it’s a good idea to drill several holes and jig at least 10–15 minutes in each hole before moving to the next hole or spot due to the movement of fish during early ice. Jig higher in the water column; a good rule of thumb is splitting the depth in half and jigging at that location in the water column as well as jigging within 2–3 feet from the bottom. Bluegills have been hitting tungsten jigs tipped with the tail end of a Mister Twister Sassy Stingum or wax worm. We’ve been jigging inside weeds and weed pockets for sunfish.

Northern pike are hitting sucker minnows and spoons tipped with a minnow head. We are jigging high in the water column and set lines are above the weeds in 6–12 feet.

Walleyes are active at low light periods and cruising the shallows during the day. Walleyes are hitting minnows/live bait presentations or spoons tipped with a minnow head jigged near bottom in 8–13 feet of water.

Many lakes in the area have iced over though many large main lakes and channels are still open or thin and dangerous. Once again, practice safety first on all early ice bodies of water. If you’re wondering where and how to fish, 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!