451 West Sheridan Street Ely, Minnesota 55731
218-365-6930
Fishing Report
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This season's trout opener is off to a less than idyllic start as lake conditions continue to frustrate anglers in the area. With a foot or less of ice on most lakes, topped with a foot or more of snow, travel has been restricted to sled, four-wheeler or on foot. The influx of wheel houses, that in the past has been the norm, was down to a few and those were left in either the resort and hotel parking lots or just parked at the landings. Some local anglers were starting to plow some roads out, but have been slowed by the slush that has made its way through to  the surface.

Some anglers that did brave the conditions were rewarded with a few trout. Burntside Lake was the headliner for lakers, with a few nice fish in the six to eight pound range. A few of those caught were within walking distance of the public access at Van Vac. Aggressive jigging has been the most productive method as is typical at this time of year. The most popular of baits have been white tubes, Chubby Darters and Little Cleo spoons. Dead stick and tip-up fishermen were having some success on frozen smelt or minnows fished right on the bottom.

Steam trout anglers were doing fairly well as they jigged tiny spoons or jigs tipped with spikes or mousies in the upper fifteen feet of the water column. The most productive holes seemed to be less than ten feet deep near the shorelines. The best approach was to slowly lower their offerings from just beneath the ice to the bottom and back. This could be indicative of the trout feeding on small insects rising from the lake bed, so keep your lure selection on the tiny size for now. This is almost surely to change as fish become more aggressive.

Panfish anglers have been doing fairly well on some of the smaller lakes. Although travel has been difficult, a good number of crappies and sunnies are being taken. Some of the sunnies have been around the eight or nine inch range which is more than an acceptable size for the pan. Small minnows and wax worm tipped jigs have been the ticket for bringing them out of the hole.

Walleye and pike have been slower to respond lately with folks only reporting moderate activity. The walleyes have been taking small buckshot spoons tipped with a minnow head or a full minnow set below a tip-up or dead stick. Small suckers have been the go-to bait for the pike.

The recent snow cover on the Ely area lakes has inhibited some of the ice formation and slowed angler traffic somewhat, however those that are venturing out have been rewarded with some decent action. Many folks have been targeting crappies and sunfish with good results. Some slab crappies up to fourteen inches are being pulled from Fall, East Twin, and Birch Lakes. Some decent northern pike have been caught and speared in the past few weeks as well. Although ice thickness can vary considerably, prudent anglers have been traveling by snowmobile, four wheelers, and on foot, drilling as they go to stay on the safest ice. Most bays have around ten to twelve inches of ice which is just fine for the smaller transports. Some areas of slush are now being reported near cacks and where people have been drilling a network of holes.

The next big rush of activity will come with the opening of trout season outside of the BWCA which begins on January 12th. Lakes entirely within the BDUB has already opened. Lake trout fishing has really seen an increase over the past several years, and this season should be no exception. Burntside Lake has been gaining in popularity as the numbers of lake trout there remain healthy and steady. Burntside has a large expanse of water with several access points on it which allows anglers, even those on foot, to get in on the action relatively close to shore, which means a great deal when travel conditions are restricted. Lake trout respond well to active jigging with a variety of lures convincing some of these bruisers to chase and strike. While this is the preferred method for many, some of the lakers will readily take a live or frozen bait right off the bottom under a dead stick or tip-up. Snowbank Lake is another great destination for lake trout and is within easy reach of Ely, just up the Fernberg road. Snowbank seems to turn out some larger fish at times and it has access to waters inside the BWCA which prohibits motorized traffic. This can be a plus too, as some lake trout anglers believe that any disturbance above the ice affects the trout under it such as driving, drilling and plowing.

Stream trout will be open on the Ely areas many trout lakes this weekend. Lakes such as Miners, Tofte, Glacier Ponds, High and Dry and others will no doubt see a surge in action as is usual. These lakes have been providing some great action for rainbows, splake, browns and brook trout. Lure selection can be as wide and varied as the anglers pursuing them. Some take the stealthy approach with tiny offerings tipped with a wax worm or crappie minnow head, while others score big on larger spoons and jigs. Always keep in mind that you are only allowed to fish with one device, whether it be a rod and reel or tip-up on designated trout lakes. Ridiculous, yes, but that's the law.

As the ice begins to build, more anglers are starting to venture out. Some of them have been reporting decent catches of panfish on the local lakes. Armstrong, One Pine, Johnson and Low Lake have been the go-to place for these early ice fishermen. Most of the action has been in the deeper drop-offs adjacent to the still green weed beds. Fall Lake has been turningbout a few good size crappies with an occasional walleye in the mix. Shagawa Lake is beginning to show some traffic and the walleyes tend to run small there, but a few sixteen to twenty inch fish have been put on the ice. Some nice northern pike have been reported and anglers have been using sucker minnows to catch their limits of the 30" and under fish. A couple of anglers have caught some lunkers in the 40" inch and up range but they have been returned to fight again.

Please exercise caution as you move about the lakes. Most travel is either by foot or ATV and snowmobile. Driving full size vehicles is not recommended yet as some areas have as little as eight inches of ice.

Happy New Year to everyone!  May 2019 be your best fishing season yet.

With the recent cold snap, we should continue building a more solid ice base from which to seek the fish in the Ely area. Most lakes have around twelve inches of good clear ice. That is not to say that it's safe, as there are much thinner areas that can and will vary from lake to lake, particularly around any moving water or choke points between any islands. As always, proceed with caution, and drill or chisel your way as you go, and please travel in numbers for safety.

Pan fishermen have been doing fairly well on most small impoundments as more and more folks venture out. Small minnows and jigs tipped with a minnow or soft plastic bait have been working for the crappies. White, pink, and other light colored offerings seem to be performing the best. Sunnies are attacking small jigs tipped with a wax worm or two. Don't hesitate to try some larger profile baits for the first few drops as these will draw them towards the hole, then you can pick off the larger more aggressive fish first.  When the action slows, downsize your baits to keep them interested.

Northern pike are being quite responsive in the past couple of weeks. Most are using tip-ups with a live sucker or shiner on the hook. This can be very entertaining for the young and old alike, and a great way to gain the interest of someone who has never ice fished before. Try working around the still green weed edges in water from three to ten feet deep. You can also lay a dead or frozen minnow rig right on the bottom, as pike can be like vacuum cleaners picking up just about anything lying around.

This is also a good time to get your trout gear in order. Boundary Waters Lakes opened last week for trout and will open Jan. 12th outside the BDUB. If last year was any indication of what's to come, get ready for some great action. We have seen the number of trout reported increase for the past few years. This could be due to increasing trout numbers, or the fact that anglers are getting better at catching them. If you have never had a lake trout through the ice on the end of your line, you have no idea what you're missing. These fish are extremely dogged fighters, with even the smaller fish keeping up quite a fight. Keep in mind though that the next one you catch could be one of those ten-plus pounders, which will absolutely spool your reel with the drag screaming the whole way. Rainbows and splake have also been showing up in good numbers as well in recent years. Some rainbows have been in excess of 23", which is impressive considering what small bodies of water they're coming out of here.

 

With the moderate temperatures of late, ice thickness has been slow to increase. Many of the lakes in the area have eight to twelve inches of good,hard, clear ice, however there are others with four inches or less in places. We cannot stress enough that it's always a good idea to drill test holes as you travel, and it's also a good idea to not venture out alone.

The few anglers that have been out are reporting catching a few walleyes from Shagawa Lake in twelve to twenty feet of water. Most action has been the hours on either side of sunset. Live minnows on a dead stick have been the way to go for most part, but a few larger walleyes have been brought to the hole through active jigging of rattle and swim baits. Seems like the large bait, large fish theory holds true.

Some nice crappies and sunnies are being caught, but once again the numbers appear to be off. Much of the vegetation on the smaller lakes is still up and green, therefor the fish have been holding in close to the cover. This is where it's important to drill a bunch of holes where you can move about. Do some hole-hopping to achieve the bast results.

Pike spearers and tip-up anglers have been getting a few fish, but no huge ones have been reported lately.