Our Winter Walleye Waters

Our Winter Walleye Waters

Many of the top walleye lakes throughout the state are unknown to all but a handful of anglers.

Ice-fishing season is in full swing and there are plenty of weekends of walleye fishing yet to be had. Whether you want to venture far from home or stick nearby, there are plenty of high-quality walleye waters located throughout the state.

Many of the top walleye lakes throughout the state are unknown to all but a handful of anglers. Those who fish these lakes are tight-lipped and largely unwilling to share their favorite locations. Walleye anglers who know better, don't worry about those isolationists and head out to their favorite walleye lake.

Rather than finding some out-of-the-way walleye ice-fishing locations, confident walleye anglers head out to the top water bodies in the state and fish differently than everybody else.

"It's not that you are going to some secret lake where huge walleyes swim -- those kinds of lakes are tough to find and generally aren't even realistic -- you go to a lake with plenty of walleyes in it, fish a little differently than the others, fish less pressured areas and have tons of luck," House added.

LAKE OWASSO
The secret is out about Lake Owasso, with its healthy and cooperative walleye population for ice-anglers.

It's a great lake for catching plenty of eating-sized walleyes, but it also has trophy potential.

Found along the border of Roseville and Shoreview east of St. Paul, the best public access is located at the northeast corner of the lake on North Owasso Boulevard. When the ice gets thick enough, some anglers take their vehicles onto the water but always exercise caution. At 375 acres, the lake is big enough that you can walk to the best fishing spots without too much of a hike. This feature makes it a great early- and late-ice destination.

Josh Stevenson owns Blue Ribbon Bait and has fished Owasso for many years with plenty of luck for walleyes. He said the most consistent place to find walleyes is on the saddle in the middle of the lake.

"There are a lot of weeds on that big flat and it's a great spot to find them all over the place. You can also fish along the inside turn with a rockpile on it near where the ski jump is in the summer in 12 to 15 feet of water," he added. (Continued)

Crowds can vary on the lake and if you get out there and find tons of portables or permanent houses, simply vary your approach and fish along the edges. You don't need to move too far away on Owasso, because the walleyes don't seem to be as affected by fishing pressure as on many other lakes.

For more information, contact Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle at (651) 777-2421 or www.blueribbonbait.com.

BALD EAGLE LAKE
Another east metro lake that holds a healthy walleye population is Bald Eagle Lake located in White Bear Lake.

Stevenson said he sends many walleye anglers up to Bald Eagle and most of them report a quality walleye fishing experience. He fishes the lake, too, but is generally after toothier critters when he's out there.

Below: A fat walleye is pulled from the Minnesota ice. Photo by Mike Gnatkowski.

"There are some really big pike out there, so be prepared for a blend of pike and walleyes at the end of your line," Stevenson said. There are many locations to find walleyes on the lake, but his favorite location is the hard-bottom dropoff on the south end of Cigar Island. "It's perfect walleye terrain," he said.

The north end bar tends to attract many fish houses, but for good reason, and when the shacks are there, fish the edges and you'll have some luck.

If large walleyes aren't what you are after, Bald Eagle might not make a great first choice, but it is definitely a lake for numbers and consistent action.

It's easy to get on the lake from a variety of locations as well with two public landings, but most anglers use the large park on the southeast side of the lake. There are 1,268 acres of water to fish, so be prepared to move, but some of the best locations are within walking distance of the landing.

For more information, contact Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle at (651) 777-2421 or www.blueribbonbait.com.

LAKE WACONIA
Bowl-shaped with plenty of mid-lake structure and an extensive basin sounds more like Mille Lacs than your average metro lake, but Waconia is one of the west metro's crown jewels for ice-anglers -- especially those after walleyes.

"I know a guy who instead of fishing Mille Lacs goes to Waconia and has never complained about poor fishing," said Terry Tuma, an ice-fishing expert.

Waconia has numerous mid-lake humps and flats that all hold walleyes at various times of the winter.

There are two ways to tackle the lake, the first being to find the crowds and fish the edges. That can work for walleyes, but many of the ice-anglers are chasing the numerous crappies on the lake.

Those ice-anglers who like to keep their secrets safe and don't share their honeyholes are found along the less-pressured pieces of structure.

Purchase a map or download one from the DNR Web site and you'll be able to find these structures pretty easily.

All of them are big enough to eyeball even without a GPS, and if you use your depthfinder to shoot through the ice, it won't take too long.

A consistent location throughout the year, open water and ice-fishing, is off the southeast corner of Coney Island. There's a point coming off along the east side and a sharp drop on the south end. Walleyes can stack up on this location at various times, so if you don't mark any fish it might not be worth sticking around for long. Still, it's worth checking out because if the fish are there, the fishing will be good.

For more information, contact In-Towne Marina at (952) 442-2096 or online at www.intownemarina.com.

LAKE MINNETONKA
Some anglers say that the walleye bite on Minnetonka lasts for 45 minutes a day and then is over for another 23 hours. It's an interesting concept that

could be true, but it doesn't explain why many anglers quietly catch plenty of walleyes throughout the day. Perhaps it's a myth they keep going to keep the fishing pressure down. After all, this is Minnetonka where fishing pressure is a reality 365 days a year.

Rick "Swede" Peterson of Swede's Guide Service does a ton of fishing on Lake Minnetonka and said the size and number of walleyes in the lake makes it his top choice.

"I really like to fish the east like Brown's, Wayzata and Excelsior Bay -- there are a lot of springs, it's deep, and there's a lot of structure holding fish," he said.

The best walleye fishing on most lakes throughout the state is during the morning and evening hours, but evening seems to be the best on Tonka. The east side of the lake has clearer water than the west side and tends to hold the best walleye fishing throughout the winter.

Some of the best walleye structure you'll ever find in the state can be found immediately around Big Island. There are plenty of inside turns, points, humps, sharp breaks and transition areas where baitfish spend time serving as food sources for hungry walleyes. Get a detailed map of the area and mark a few spots. Shoot through the ice with a depthfinder and run and gun these locations until you have some luck.

Overlooked locations are the deep weedlines along the milfoil beds and scattered cabbage beds. "All year 'round I never leave the weedline, even in the heavy middle of the winter. I'm never more than 3 feet off a weedline, and that's in depths from 15 to 25 feet," he said.

The south side of Gale Island, near Big Island has some nice gravel and rocks that hold walleyes throughout the winter as well. These aren't the only walleye locations on the lake, but the others are well-guarded secrets. The silly part of that is anybody who knows how to read a map can find plenty of similar locations throughout the lake. Plan on running and gunning the lake rather than setting up and sitting, but it's well worth the effort.

For more information, contact Swede at Swede's Guide Service at (952) 471-8884 or online at www.swedesguide service.com.

PELICAN LAKE
There are 13 lakes in the state with the word "pelican" in them and several of them are great walleye destinations. It's a fact that is most likely a coincidence, but one of the best Pelican lakes to fish for winter walleyes is the well-known home to Breezy Point. North of Brainerd and east of Pequot lakes by only a few miles, Pelican is less pressured than most of the other lakes in the Brainerd lakes area.

Jason Erlandson of Sportland Bait and Tackle and Nisswa Guide Service said many anglers tend to overlook Pelican as a winter ice-fishing destination.

"Most anglers seem to head to Gull or other lakes south of Pelican, but it's a lake with consistent action and some larger averages than most other lakes in the area," he said.

Legendary fishing guide Marv Koep lives on Pelican and said he loves the large average size of walleyes on Pelican. It's a great ice-fishing destination with many locations consistently producing large numbers of fish, Koep said.

Erlandson said the ice can be funny on the north end, but the southern end of the lake is more consistent.

"There are islands and other shoreline structures that can impact the ice on the north end. It's almost like two different lakes with a north end and south end. It seems like you can get on the south end earlier with good access and more consistent ice conditions," he said.

Most anglers concentrate on walleyes, but there's a healthy perch population not to mention some decent crappie fishing. Walleye anglers can expect any of the above to bite on their line throughout the winter. As the winter moves on, the best walleye locations move from bays and shoreline structure out to the main-lake structures.

A few ice-fishing experts even cruise around the lake basin searching for roaming walleyes, but this is a pursuit few have any luck at. Those who do, however, are typically rewarded with large catches and large fish.

For more information, contact Sportland Bait and Tackle at (218) 963-2401 or www.sportlandbait.com.

UPPER RED LAKE
It has become the hottest walleye lake in recent memory, thanks to the revitalization of the walleye population. Anglers are reporting tons of walleyes being caught, and as the population ages, the trophy potential grows with each passing year.

"It's an awesome lake to walleye fish even though you have to do a lot of searching to find them," said John House, a promotional angler.

House said find the GPS coordinates for the cribs that have been placed in the lake and plan on heading out a few miles from the main landing.

"You can search out the crowds and fish along the edges of them, but it pays to have some of your own spots plugged into the GPS so if the fish aren't biting you can go searching," he said.

Anglers who flock to the crowds can have some phenomenal fishing, but the angler migration is always a few days behind the walleye migration. The ice-angler with a sense of adventure can go searching for walleyes and get on a hotspot before it becomes a well-known location.

There are still plenty of big crappies in the lake, so don't be surprised if that tough battle you think is a walleye turns out to be a 2-pound or larger crappie. There are also plenty of massive pike swimming the lake, so don't dip your fingers too far down the hole to rescue that dropped piece of jerky.

Because the walleye bite can be so consistent throughout the season, House said he likes to use artificial baits more than live baits. "Because I don't have to change my bait when I catch a fish, I can get my lure back in the water faster than my buddies who have to put a new minnow or waxie on -- it's fun to outfish them with artificial baits through the ice," he said.

For more information, contact Duffy's Fish House Rentals at (218) 355-0277, or go online to www.urlfishhouserentals.com.

MILLE LACS LAKE
So much has been written about the walleye fishing on Mille Lacs it hardly seems worth mentioning, but there are still anglers who don't believe the hype or don't think the walleye bite is as good as it used to be.

"The fishing up here is great and the action is consistent for those anglers willing to drill a lot of holes and move around," walleye expert and guide Tony Roach said.

One of the biggest mistakes anglers make is they think about the lake in a different way in the wintertime than they do in the summertime "The concepts are the same and the locations are pretty much the same as well -- don't just plop on a point and sit all day. There are so many inside turns, mid-structure break

s, flat spots adjacent to sharp breaks and transition areas that you can fill the day with walleyes if you move around," he said.

Early and late ice-fishing can be great around the rockpiles, but most anglers fish the edges rather than getting right on top of them in 9 to 10 feet of water.

"Walleyes cruise those locations in early and late ice, especially at night," Roach said. "A few wise anglers even leave their fish houses on top of those rockpiles and catch walleyes all winter long."

The weedlines are another great winter location most anglers overlook.

"In those years without much snow, like we've had recently, those weedlines stay good almost until ice-out -- the deep weed edge is a great place to put the Aqua-Vu down and take a look at what's going on because you can get weird readings with your liquid crystal graph in these spots," he said.

For more information, contact Roach's Guide Service at (763) 226-6656, or go online to www.roachsguideservice.com.

LAKE WINNIBIGOSHISH
Roach said you could take the same principals he outlined on Mille Lacs and apply them to Winnibigoshish and have the same tremendous luck.

"You can fish the edges of those points and humps, but don't be afraid to get on top of them as well --especially on Winnie with all those shallow rock and sand piles that top off in 10 to 14 feet of water," he said.

There are tons of small perch in Winnie, and the walleyes are cruising around those locations picking off the perch.

"Those perch don't just sit on top of the rocks getting eaten, so don't overlook the nearby deep locations where those perch will sometimes suspend," he added.

Areas immediately over and adjacent to current are places to exercise caution, but where the ice is thick enough, the shallow points nearby hold fish, especially during early ice.

Roach said no matter where he is ice-fishing, he always stays away from the crowds and gets to where he can move around and drill plenty of holes to target active fish.

"There are so many variations with mobility that people overlook -- to be absolutely mobile, you have to pack light, find your own fish and drill more than just four or five holes at each location," he said.

For more information, contact Roach's Guide Service at (763) 226-6656, or go online to www.roachsguideservice.com.

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