Lake of the Woods for Pike and Walleyes
Some of winter’s finest fishing occurs at season’s end, and nowhere is this truer than on mighty Lake of the Woods along the Minnesota-Ontario border. I’ve fished both sides of this tremendous fishery at late ice, and have yet to be disappointed.
Throughout March, giant northern pike and walleyes are on tap along the Minnesota side, and the action continues right through ice-out. Where the Rainy River enters the big lake, a short cast from Baudette, anglers target eater saugers and slot walleyes—along with the sag-bellied ‘eyes that Lake of the Woods has become known for with fish regularly topping 28 inches—on the flats in front of the rivermouth. Winter anglers also venture into the river itself, where your odds of tangling with a trophy walleye are among the best on the planet.
The Rattl'n Flyer Spoon is one of the most versatile ice fishing lures of all time.
Jigging spoons like the Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoon, along with horizontal swimmers like the Lindy Darter and Lindy Slick Jig, are all hot options at the rivermouth, in depths from the low 20s to 30 feet. In the river, most anglers favors heavy leadheads for fighting the strong current. Here, Lindy’s X-Change Jigging System makes it easy to tailor jig weight and color to the conditions.
A bit farther east, Lindy ambassador Nick Painovich of Zippel Bay Resort plies pike paradise, regularly tangling with spawn-run gators topping 40 inches. Painovich’s program relies on aggressively jigging attractor lures like the Lindy Darter to draw curious pike in for a look. He also sets tip-ups baited with live or dead sucker minnows just off bottom. The combination is deadly, because if an incoming pike snubs the Darter, it often nabs the setline.
“The pike stage just outside Zippel Bay before moving in to spawn,” says Painovich, who notes that the concentration of big fish offers one of the best chances at a 40-inch pike in the Lower 48 states. Indeed, during a recent early March trip to Lake of the Woods, Painovich put our party of four—which included Lindy’s Ben Beattie, Mike Christensen and In-Fisherman’s Chuck Beasley—on a trio of trophy pike in one afternoon—not counting a few missed fish that slipped the hook on our tip-ups.
The Lindy Darter often times will evoke aggressive feeding responses when other baits yield no response.
We also sampled the deepwater bite just offshore for walleyes and saugers, and joined Kasberger off the Rainy River for more walleye action. Of note on the walleye scene was how Lindy's Jon Thelen, who organized the entire wrangle, literally put on a clinic with the new Lindy Darter, even during periods when the fish were less than aggressive.
All told, Lake of the Woods is the perfect proving ground for Lindy’s ice arsenal, and a great destination for anyone seeking one last blast of walleye and pike action before the ice season ends.
Note: For more information on Lake of the Woods, contact Nick Painovich at Zippel Bay Resort,(800) 222-2537, www.zippelbay.com.