Well, the winter game fishing season is over for this year. The results were pretty good, despite the fact that it trailed off as usual in late February.

The season started pretty early for walleyes and stayed strong until that midwinter severe cold period in February. It never fully recovered after that, and stayed only “medium well” for the rest of the season. Overall, we would give it a B or B+ grade. Not bad.

The northern fishing stayed in the good range for the whole season right to the end. For those of you who know how to fillet them, they are as good as walleye in the pan. I have to say that it is one of my favorite fish on the plate, especially in the cold water.

With the winter game fishing season over, it is time to concentrate on panfish and the favorite panfish up here is crappies. They have taken a pounding from ice anglers all season in deeper water, especially on the Eagle River Chain. They concentrate in the holes on each lake on the Chain. 

On Catfish Lake, for example, there were literally hundreds of anglers in the eastern hole by the islands last weekend. When in those holes, the fish are suspended, so don’t fish right on the bottom. Electronics are very helpful in these conditions. Using vertical jigs tipped with waxies works very well. The use of tip-downs has become popular, tipped with small minnows. As this spring extends, the crappie fishing will be spectacular as these fish move shallower into the weeds every evening to feed. This, for many of us, is the best ice fishing of the year for crappies.

Tied for second in the panfish spectrum are perch and bluegills, with a slight nod to the ’gills. The bluegills actively feed daily in the weeds, even more so in the spring. If you can find some green weeds, they are gold for the ’gills in the afternoons as the water warms. Red spikes or waxies work very well for these fish. Perch are near the bottom, feeding on wigglers as they dig them out of the bottom. Wiggler, waxies or red spikes will all work fished right near the bottom.

The spring panfishing is great and a very enjoyable time to be on the ice. Take some suntan lotion along as the sun is surprisingly powerful at this time of the year.

Good luck and good fishin’.