December 23-31, 2011

The weather has continued to be reasonably mild for December in Minnesota, but we now have probably 12-14 inches of good clear ice on Woman Lake.  Very little or no snow is on the ice, so the loud pinging echos from the ice expanding and contracting provides a constant background sound track to your fishing experience.  It is a uniquely "northern lake country" sound that I love.  The walleyes have been active for me in the 17-20 foot depths along shore related sand breaks, but the bite has been mostly limited to the 60 minutes before and after sunset.  We caught a nice 24 inch walleye, which was released, as well as a number of eater size keepers, but the best story so far has been the perch bite.  We also hooked a big northern pike somewhere in the 12-14 lb range that provided a little excitement, before outsmarting us on our 4th attempt to get his snout heading up the hole.

We are catching nice sized perch (10 - 11.5 inches) along the same structure as the walleyes, except in the shallower water on the top of the sand break.  While I wouldn't call these true "jumbo" perch, they are pretty good eating size in my book.  The perch bite runs through the middle of the day and 13-16 feet seems to be the preferred depth for the perch.  Small vertical spoons or horizontal jigs with crappie minnows seemed to work well, but you need to work your bait actively.  You will catch a number of smaller perch, as well, so the bite is quite active.  Often you will be too busy to fish two lines.  If you spend a couple hours and sort through the smaller fish, you will end up with a nice bucket of 10+ inch perch and probably a few small walleyes, too.  You might even stumble upon some true jumbos in the 12-14 inch range, as many of the lakes in this area are known to produce.

December 9-12, 2011

The recent short cold spell has provided Woman Lake with a solid base of ice 8-10" thick and clear as glass.  The complete lack of snow on the ice requires some slow and slippery walking, but makes for an interesting outdoor experience with the crystal clear ice.  The ice is constantly making "booming" sounds that echo across the ice sheet, with no snow cover to muffle the reverberations.  I don't remember ever hearing the ice booming so loud that you can hear it from inside your cabin, as you can right now.  I started fishing shoreline sand breaks in the 17-20 foot depth range and caught walleyes each evening.  The biggest was 19", with a few 13-15" and a number of smaller walleyes from the 2 and 3 year old classes.  Both the northerns and perch were active throughout the day, but the walleye bite was only just before sunset.  The walleyes seemed to prefer smaller baits tipped with fatheads, as opposed to the bigger shiner minnows.  The northerns definitely liked the shiner minnows.

The weather has been mild since the cold spell passed, with high temps in the mid 20 degree range.  It is cold enough in the evenings to make good ice, but very comfortable fishing during the day.  The wildlife seems to be quite active near the shorelines and woodland edges that have a few inches of snow.  Muskrats and mink were seen working the shorelines, chickadees and woodpeckers were bouncing through the trees, and a pair of eagles sat on the ice out towards Airplane Bar while I was fishing.  I also saw a bobcat along the road on my way over to Little Boy Lake just after dark.  You don't get to see them very often.