By Dan Johnson


Anglers have options along the border between Minnesota and Ontario. And not just in terms of fish species. Right now you can choose between open-water and ice action, and still enjoy great fishing either way.


On the soft-water front, the Royal Dutchman Resort reports the Birchdale ramp was cleared today by Koochiching County, allowing easy boat access to the Rainy River and its legendary ’eyes of spring. The resort notes the access opened 17 days ahead of last year’s pace.


Over the weekend, moderate current flows dictated the use of 3/8-ounce jigs, and anglers were landing walleyes up to about 23 inches, with catches of 20 to 25 fish per day common. Water temperatures hovered in the mid-30s, and savvy river rats know the bite will only heat up as the mercury edges higher.


Meanwhile, hardwater warriors looking for Lake of the Woods’ toothy northern pike with a shot at bonus walleyes are funneling out of Zippel Bay Resort on ATVs, according to resort owner and Lindy pro staffer Nick Painovich. He says cool weather has solidified the icepack and eliminated pools of standing water on top of the ice.


“Folks were getting northerns in nine to 12 feet of water all weekend,” he says, noting that many eater-size fish under 30 inches are showing up. “It makes me wonder if some of the big female pike moved into Zippel Bay when the water was really running last week.”


Watch for updates as Painovich probes the bay. He notes that pike hunters are picking up bonus walleyes early and late in the day near shore as well.


“They’re getting walleyes shallow, but 12 to 16 feet of water is more consistent,” he says. “Guys who start jigging a 3/16-ounce Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoon an hour before dark are getting some nice fish.”


Based on the ice conditions and current weather forecast, Painovich expects anglers to enjoy ATV access to the pike and walleye grounds through the end of March. All of which means if you’re headed north to the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River region and want to cover all the angles, you’d best pack your four-wheeler in the back of the truck and pull your boat behind.