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Central Minnesota (December 12th, 2023)

The ice conditions throughout Central Minnesota from Buffalo/Monticello up to Paynesville up to Alexandria or in the Brainerd area vary greatly.  Some lakes have a skinny soft 5″ but by far most of the lakes have 3-4.5″ –again of soft developing ice, so extreme caution is advised.  The good news is that great fishing can be found a short walk from shore—no ATV needed. 

The panfish bite is good between the bluegills and the crappies all day long.  Shallow weed beds connecting to the first break line in the 5-10ft range is the ticket.   Dead stick rigs with a crappie minnow on a #6 Gamakatsu hook will bag the big ‘gills and just about any crappie.  Pair that with a small jigging spoon like a Northland Forage minnow, a JB Lures Big Bad Bo or a VMC Flash champ will catch any bluegill or crappie.  Tip the spoons with a spike or a wax worm.  The best sizes are 1/32 oz. up to 1/16 oz.  Work the entire water column all the way up to just under the ice—where most electronics will not show you fish.  I rig both presentations on 3 lb. test Berkely Micro ice line.  Be prepared for a bonus bass or 6.   Since the ice is clear, thin, and snowless, do not make any nonessential noise and pay attention to your own shadow on the ice.  

Northern Pike are also being caught in the same areas.  Simply rig a 3-4″ shiner minnow on a Chartreuse hook suspended approx. 2 ft off the bottom under a tip-up.  Again, avoid walking around too much to not spook the fish.   Of course, green weeds are key (they all still are and will be for many weeks to come) with cabbage weed being the best, however a “junk mix” is fine as well.

The golden hours (sunrise/sunset) are a perfect time to snatch a few walleyes.  Stick to shoreline related breaks, points, inside turns, or any pocket in the shoreline break weed line.  similar to the crappies, a deadstick rig or slip bobber rig tipped with a shiner minnow (yes, shiners work better than most minnows) suspended within a foot of the bottom (9″ even better) will do the job in most scenarios.  Jiggin Raps, Northland Puppet minnows, or a Moonshine Super Glow are all glide baits that will work.  Another walleye catching option has been 1/8 oz. sized jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head (small minnow heads) like a Acme Kastmaster, JB Lures Weasel, or a Northland Buckshot spoon for lowlight or dark water situations.   The best depths are in the 13-17 ft range.   Lotsa Fish! Lotsa Fun!

Capt. Josh Hagemeister
Minnesota Fishing Guide Service
320-291-0708 or 218-732-9919