Contributed photo
With falling temperatures local ice fishermen can enjoy some hot early season fishing on Becker and Otter Tail County lakes.

Chill Fishing Report

Cody Hill

Dust off the ice gear, ice fishing season has officially begun.

In Becker and Otter Tail Counties each lake froze over at different times so ice thickness can vary greatly from lake to lake. I have noticed that it can vary from place to place on bigger lakes. This time of the year I don’t trust any ice reports unless I drill the hole to verify myself and I suggest you do the same. Remember safety is very important, and it is important to have on your safety gear before getting onto the ice because things can happen quickly. When going on the ice I wear my ice cleats, Eskimo floating suit, and my ice picks around my neck. After I have on my gear I am going ahead of my buddy with a chisel and checking the ice every 10 to 15 feet as we walk to our destination. MN DNR states you need 3 inches of clear ice to walk and 4 inches to fish. 

  With the harsh winter we had last year a lot of our early ice locations froze out which is making this year more difficult to find safe ice and active fish. I am finding a lot more people in spots than I have in past years because of the winter kill has reduced the number of good spots available. Be kind to your neighbor fishing and you never know you might make a great friend out of the trip.  

I have been targeting panfish and have been getting some amazing blue gills mixed with some good eating crappies.  Fishing in 11 to 14 feet of water and the depth has more to do with fishing pressure than anything. Thin ice transfers a lot of noises from above the ice to water so you can spook fish, so the less noise made around the hole the better. As pressure increases, I’m finding the fish are going into standing cabbage to hide from anglers.

Tungsten jigs (4 mm size) have been working best and the color of the jig hasn’t made a big difference, but the color of plastic has made the biggest factor. Chartreuse and pink have been my go-to colors, and it can vary from day to day, or it can change multiple times throughout the day. Most of my fish are coming in 2 to 3 feet off bottom but my most aggressive fish are coming in 3 to 5 feet from bottom.  

With Livescope I can see fish 10 feet to the side of my hole and when fishing I am seeing fish coming in 3 to 5 feet from bottom and those fish are focused on my lure and ultimately fly into the hole and slam my lure. The reason I state this is if you are not using a Livescope and using a flasher like a Marcum with your cone angle it will look like they are coming up from bottom to bite but reality is that the fish are coming in sideways to bite. Focusing on jigging 3 to 5 feet from bottom is attracting more fish to your hole by being more visible, but it is also enticing the more aggressive fish swimming higher in the schools to bite. 

I have also had good luck with putting a tip up or a rattle reel set 3-5 feet from bottom with a sucker or shiner minnow in the area we are fishing for blue gills. This is producing everything from walleyes to bass because everything is swimming together right now. I have been seeing if your fish quickly drop towards bottom pike are in the area and the panfish are getting lower in the water column to avoid them.

Stay safe and never assume all ice is safe.

  A gift of a guided trip will fit under any tree or great in a stocking.

If you are interested in booking a trip, contact Cody today to book a trip that will make memories that will last a lifetime. Contact online at or call (218) 443-3813.