The obsession began early in life. As a kid, if there was a lake, creek or pond, I wanted to fish it. Growing up in Bloomington, every summer day that wasn’t spent playing baseball was spent riding my bike, fishing pole in hand, to Penn Lake or Nine Mile Creek.
I passed many hours catching crappies and sunfish off the point of Penn Lake. If I had a dollar for every bullhead I pulled out of Nine Mile creek by Hillcrest Elementary School, I would give Bill Gates a run for his money. But the truly good times were when I was able to talk my Mom into driving me to Hyland Lake, or better yet, Lake Rebecca or Gray’s Bay of Lake Minnetonka.
The shore fishing at Hyland Lake and Lake Rebecca was excellent and it was hard to beat a spring crappie run on Lake Minnetonka. But as awesome as those times were, there was one problem I could not solve: I was shore bound.
For the most part, that meant I was limited to catching panfish. I envied friends and their fancy boats. Like them, I wanted to troll weed lines for northern pike, jig deep mid-lake holes for walleye, or cast topwaters in hard-to-reach places for big bass. But as the son of a hard-working single mom, a boat and easy access to bigger and better fish was just a dream.
Fast forward to middle age and I faced the same problem. Family, the mortgage and bills came before buying a boat, and I remained shorebound. That is until I had an epiphany. Why I never thought of it sooner I don’t know.
You see, in Minnesota, for several months of the year, the lakes freeze over. Once solid, with at least four inches of clear ice, you can go anywhere on the lake you want. And with a modest investment in a hand-cranking ice auger, an ice-fishing pole and a few hooks or jigs, those once unreachable spots, are now accessible.
Ice is the great equalizer. Anyone can fish any spot without needing a boat. That’s why I now do the majority of my fishing in winter.
Where To Go Ice Fishing
Lake Auburn in Carver Park Reserve is a popular spot for local ice anglers. The crappie fishing is good on the outside weed edges of the north shore of the lake near the boat launch. Small- to medium-sized northern pike can be caught using tip-ups baited with sucker minnows in the same area.
Medicine Lake can be accessed from French Regional Park in Plymouth and is a top spot for Twin Cities ice anglers. Walleye, northern pike and panfish are sought after, and there are many good places to try. My favorite spot — shhhh don’t tell anyone — is off the shore of West Medicine Lake Park in 18-20 feet of water. Jigging with fathead minnows and tip-ups with fathead minnows produces walleye. Tip-ups with sucker minnows often result in some decent sized northern pike.
Silver Lake in St. Anthony is accessed from Silverwood Park and is a great spot to jig using wax worms or crappie minnows. Try the deeper depths between the island and the beach. Here the perch are small but plentiful when biting. Sunfish and crappies can be found here, too.
Fish Lake in Fish Lake Regional Park is also a good bet for panfish. Like Lake Auburn, the outside weed edges are the place to be. Jigging with wax worms and crappie minnows is an effective technique for panfish, while tip-ups baited with sucker minnows will produce small- to medium-sized pike.
Learn How to Ice Fish with Three Rivers
Want to try ice fishing? Don't miss Try It: Ice Fishing on Saturday, January 25 at Fish Lake Regional Park in Maple Grove. During this free, hands-on event, you can practice ice fishing techniques, learn how to bait a hook and test out equipment. Best of all, experienced staff, professionals and community partners will be on hand to show you how it's done.
About the Author
Tom Knisely has been the media relations contact for Three Rivers Park District since 2007. What little free time he has is spent on the water or in the woods. He is also a mentor for the mentored youth deer hunts hosted by Three Rivers.
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