By Dan Johnson

Like most ice fishing fans, Lindy pro staffer Bob Bohland can’t wait to hear the satisfying crunch of solid ice beneath his boots for the first time this season. And by all accounts, he won’t have to wait long. Bohland, who hails from central Minnesota’s St. Cloud area, is planning to hit the lakes this weekend, hot on the heels of unseasonably cool weather that’s solidified many smaller waters across the state.

“The Horseshoe Chain is my home water,” he says. “But that’s a river system, so it’s still a little iffy. I plan to hit Briggs Lake this weekend instead. Like a lot of smaller lakes in the area, it froze up fast and is already seeing foot traffic.”

Though he’s renowned for his pursuit of slab-size bluegills, Bohland plans on tackling a multispecies mix for his first outing, including walleyes, crappies and ’gills. It’s a smart call, based on Briggs’ stats from Department of Natural Resources test netting. The 400-acre lake holds ample ’eyes due to state stocking efforts, plus plenty of panfish. By studying survey data for lakes in your stomping grounds, you can uncover similar hotspots as well.

And speaking of hunting up honeyholes, Bohland also plans to do a bit of exploring while he’s out and about.

“I’m also going to hop around and hit some new areas,” he said. “There are a lot of small lakes in what I call the ‘Pine to Prairie Panfish Corridor’ that are highly fertile, yet deep enough to stave off total winterkill.”

With a thick skin of fresh ice cloaking these small wonders, and no snow to slow the search process, Bohland says now is the time to check out similar waters across the Ice Belt. He offers a tidbit of advice to fellow slab slayers to boot.

“When you’re tracking down beefy bluegills, keep in mind that smaller fish school offshore, while slabs that don’t want to compete with their smaller cousins often gravitate to shallow weeds.”

File that away for future reference, because this gem holds water all winter. Happy hunting!