Chill Fishing Report

Cody Hill

March has arrived for the Otter Tail County region, and it is bringing us some of the best panfish fishing in the state of Minnesota.  Game fish season closed a week ago and fish houses are in the process of being removed from the lakes, but March also means a few things have changed and we need to make sure we are all aware of them.  

One, we all need new fishing licenses.  

Second, the 2022-23 rules and regulations are now in affect and that affects us directly because a lot of our lakes in our area have reduced limits starting this year to help protect our panfish.  

The panfish this time of the year are starting to head for shallow water to start feeding on insects hatching in the mud.  I try to focus on fishing no deeper than 15 feet of water with 8-11 seems to be the “sweet spot” that I look for.  

If you have a camera this is a great time to use it to search for standing green weeds.  The green weeds are producing oxygen and with how much snow we have gotten this year a lot of weeds have died off and our dissolved oxygen levels are not as high as it normally should be.  If you can find nice green weeds you can usually set your house up and the schools will continue to come to you throughout the day making fishing a lot of fun especially with kids.

Since the primary forage of blue gills are insects and you are fishing in relatively shallow water this is a great time to put your expensive tungsten jigs away and replace them with lead jigs.  Lead in shallow water is a good thing because you can have a bigger profile but since lead is lighter than tungsten it will drop slower acting more realistic in the water column.  Plus, this time of the year the pike will be coming up shallow and feeding so expect to have some jigs sacrificed to a few pike.  

Panfish Pirate has a bait shop in Dent called Pirate’s Corner Tackle (located at the 4-way stop sign) has some of the best soft plastics for panfish I have ever seen and used.  This past weekend we were using the Bivy Bug on a 5 mm jig without bait catching very nice blue gills all day long.  The design of the Bivy Bug is unique and to fish it raise your rod up 1 to 1.5 feet up and drop it quickly.  This action will make the jig “swim” away from the center of your hole causing the fish to think the insect they are staring at is getting away and it will cause an instinct to attack.  If we didn’t instantly get bitten, I would twitch 2–3-inch lifts with a quick drop about 3-4 times before doing another big lift and drop.  The twitching action gives the bait a more life like look trying to entice a less aggressive fish to bite.  By switching to the larger presentation, we didn’t catch as many fish, but we caught more bigger fish using this technique.

Tullibee fishing is turning on and only going to be picking up in the next few weeks.  I run two lines when I tullibee fish with 3 holes drilled in a line with a foot between holes.   The graph goes in the middle hole, and I run two rods with different set ups to see how fish react.  On one rod I run a larger spoon 3-4 inches like a Peg Spoon or Daredevil type spoon usually in a rainbow trout color with a second rod running a Kastmaster or Swedish Pimple with both having a 4.5 mm Raptor Jig tied 12-18 inches below the spoon.  An advantage of running two rods especially fishing solo is that you get more flash in water column as you are jigging.  Each day varies on which presentation will be best but the large spoon I feel sends light and vibration off and helps bring in the fish, but they might bite more often the smaller presentation because it was attracted to the larger presentation. The 4.5 mm jig has a different angle hook helping with hook sets and as a result I tip it with a Ripper Plastic (pink or white) and put 2-3 wax worms on the jig.  Reason for both is if you have an active fish and they steal your wax worms they have the taste of wax worms in their mouth.  When the fish turns around, they see the jig with the soft plastic, and they are more likely to bite compared to a bare hook sitting down there.  

Late ice can produce some of the best fishing of the year and it can produce some absolute monster gills topside but it’s very important to do Catch, Photo, and Release to ensure our big sunfish can spawn this spring.