By Nick Simonson
With the cold snap over the holiday season, ice anglers around the region were delighted with the improvement in ice conditions and thickness, but the sub-zero highs on some days kept many of them off the water during that stretch. With last weekend’s warm-up, anglers were able to get back out and get on fish around the Peace Garden State, with some finding consistent and solid bites to match the surface of their favorite lakes.
Carey Gieser, owner of 6 Mile Corner tackleshop in Garrison reports that good ice is forming on the east end of Lake Sakakawea, but urges anglers to be careful as they venture out.
“On the big lake you’ve still got to be very cautious, we’re only seeing four-wheelers and walking traffic on Douglas Bay,” he advised, “on Lake Audubon, however, there’s 20 inches of ice and about 300 or 400 houses, so someone’s always catching something somewhere.“
Jigs and minnows continue to connect anglers with quality walleyes on Audubon, with keeper fish typically falling in the 16-to-20-inch range and plentiful smaller fish providing for consistent action. Geiser advises keeping things simple for the scattered bite, which when encountered can be very good.
On Devils Lake, John Dircks of Ed’s Bait Shop reported fast fishing while in the middle of an outing with clients.
“Most ice is driveable now, with only a few sketchy places and fishing is really good with action in Black Tiger Bay and east Devils Lake; if you find structure, you’ll find fish,” Dircks shared.
Dircks has located consistent perch bites in 30 to 50 feet of water with fish coming on tungsten jigs, and walleyes in the six-to-12-foot depth range taking rattling spoons or other boisterous baits that can be ripped through the column to trigger a reaction strike.
On smaller lakes around the region, the hot early ice bite has tapered off as conditions have improved with the recent cold snap.
On Lake Ashtabula north of Valley City, Jill Christensen of L&H Shoe Shop reports a solid foot-and-a-half of ice, but has had very limited reports on anything consistently biting there or in many of the surrounding slough-type lakes in Barnes County. Similarly, Al Hust of Gun & Reel Sports in Jamestown reports ice thicknesses up to 18 inches on the north end of Jamestown Reservoir, but recent resurgences of cold weather have snapped a scattered crappie bite and kept many off the ice in the past few days with recent snow.
On Lake Metigoshe, Bruce Watson, owner of Four Seasons tackleshop in Bottineau has been seeing a continued panfish bite with many quality bluegills and crappies being caught.
“We had two really good ice fishing tournaments here last weekend, one was strictly for bluegills with a lot of nice fish caught,” he explained, “there have also been nice crappies coming in as well, I weighed three last week from some anglers that went 1 pound 12 ounces, 1 pound 9 ounces and 1 pound 7 ounces” he concluded, adding that pike anglers and spearers are still finding consistent success, but bigger fish came earlier in the ice season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts near-normal mid-January temperatures, and models for North Dakota show a set of cold stretches preceded by warmer than average days, which should provide an opportunity for anglers to get out over the next two weeks without any impact to established and developing ice.
(Featured Photo: Anglers are encountering good ice conditions and some solid bites as well in parts of the state. Simonson Photo.)