Ice Fishing in the Great North
When asked to explain the allure of ice fishing the Canadien Shield Region of N.E. Minnesota, Lake Vermilion Guide League members, Cliff Wagenbach and Paul Pollock aren’t sure if it’s the beauty of the pine and granite studded shore lines, the solitude, or the variety of fish species that cause visitors to fall in love with the area. Tasty walleye, aggressive lake trout, jumbo perch, and crappie call these waters home and Cliff and Paul know how to catch them.
Paul’s passion is lake trout due to their elusive nature and aggressive fighting style. (Bait shops are a great source to find local trout lakes.) Paul uses a vexilar, a sonar device, to locate suspended lake trout over rock reefs, deep points, and steep break-lines. Once fish are located, Paul has good luck using airplane jigs and jigging spoons tipped with minnows on a medium action rod with 12 lb. test monofilament line. Another favorite tactic is a cisco hooked half-hitch style under a tip-up. The half-hitch causes the cisco to ride upright in the water column which lake trout find irresistible. Paul sees few other fishermen on his outings but does share the landscape with wildlife such as deer, moose, and timberwolves.
Cool, crisp December mornings will likely find Cliff Wagenbach in one of his deluxe fish houses over a soft (sand/muck/clay) bottom on the east end of 44,000-acre Lake Vermilion. Cliff feels that during the winter months his favorite species, the walleye, (and occasional jumbo perch), rely heavily on these areas for the insect and minnow life they support. The fisherman has had great luck using 1/16 oz. jigs or no. 4 hooks with chub minnows within one foot of the bottom. He favors 6 lb. test for this set-up.
In late winter, Cliff explores secluded areas of Lake Vermilion and surrounding lakes for crappie. Crappie often suspend over main basin areas, so Cliff also employs the use of a flasher (vexilar) type device. By drilling multiple holes over basin areas, he is able to systematically hunt for fish. The crappie show up as a solid red band on the flasher and are usually found between 5 to 15 feet off the bottom. Tiny jigs tipped with minnows or waxworms on 4 lb. test line is usually all it takes to catch these great-tasting, hard-fighting denizens of the deep.
Try the locations and presentations discussed by these two Lake Vermilion Guide League members and you will soon understand the passion and enthusiasm that these men have developed for ice fishing this beautiful region.