March 9, 2016
If you are looking to fish mid-March through the fishing “opener”, look to the guide. The fishing guides in the Leech Lake area know that the fishing season never really ends completely. Some fish are always in season. Not wanting to miss a single day, guides have their boats ready to go as soon as the ice breaks up. They are ready for the ice out.
“As for perch and crappies and blue gill, we are able to fish for those. Perch fishing about ice out can be pretty darn good for yellow perch,” said fishing guide Phil Bauerly.
Phil admits there is a short period of time when the ice is too thin to walk on but too thick for your boat’s hull. This period is short and can be made shorter by fishing the smaller lakes in the area that ice out a little before Leech Lake.
When fishing early on a boat, it helps to think like a fish. Temperature controls their movement, just like people. Temperature changes come sooner to the smaller lakes.
“The smaller lakes are going to be great for crappies and bluegill. When the surface temps start warming up they will be shallow. Before that we can get some fish right after ice out. You just go on out into a little deeper water and just search for them,” said Phil
This time of year the yellow perch are easier to catch because they are less picky.
“Those fish aren’t so temperature sensitive. They will feed every day that the water is in the 30s and 40s. So, right after ice out we can get out there and those fish aren’t too deep and are a nice catch too. It is sort of an underrated thing–early season perch fishing,” said Phil
It also helps to know what fish crave. For perch, he recommends a 16 ounce jig and a fathead minnow. He says perch can also be taken with jigs and plastic bait. Sometimes you may catch one with artificial bait and then you might want to switch over to live bait to get the most bites.
As for crappie, Phil says you don’t really need live bait. He says that jigs and plastic work well.
“Even small crankbait trolled outside of the spring-time spawning areas can be good for locating those bigger crappie schools. They’re often suspended over the first break into deeper water when the water is still in the 30’s and 40’s,” said Phil
To get to the fish first it is best to think small. Lakes in the Leech Lake Area less than 100 acres will ice out first. Phil mentions that any of them will have a decent crappie population. But Leech Lake clears up shortly after the small lakes and may be clear already when you read this.
Probably the best thing about fishing this time of year is there are fewer people on the water. Phil mentions there is a difference between years with early ice outs and years with late ice outs. In years where the ice clears closer to the walleye opener, people will decide to just wait a couple more weeks to fish the area. If the ice clears earlier, then people will take advantage of an early warm day. But either way there will be fewer people out than normal.
Of course, Phil recommends dressing warmly and going out afternoons, instead of mornings. At these times the temperature will be better for people and fish.
“The fishes’ metabolism will start cranking in the afternoon when it is a little bit warmer out,” said Phil.
People will also start cranking in their lines at those times. They will bring in the fish that are in season, knowing that they don’t have to wait for the walleye opener to fish the Leech Lake area.