A lingering winter, April 13 2013

One of the most difficult aspects of guiding is trying to predict fishing patterns. The art of knowing “when to be where.” This year has been particularly difficult since the lake conditions are the same as they were in February. The rivers are not being fueled by any lake run-off and the fishing is tough. I traveled up to Northern Light Lake this week with low expectations that were thoroughly met.

The traditional spots are not working yet and walleyes are only open on Minnesota border lakes until the 14th of April. I know that the conditions can change with a blink of an eye up here but we are still drilling through 30 inches of black ice that is covered with six inches of snow. It could be an interesting opener. Trail Center hosted an ice fishing contest on their last weekend of business for the winter season that was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect and to many people’s surprise, there were a few fish caught. Poplar has never been known for great fishing but Sarah Hamilton drove around on her snowmobile delivering raffle prizes to the participants.

Friday was a bright day with only a few clouds in the sky. I set out with a few friends after filling up Trail Center style on some pancakes to see if we could actually put a fish on the ice. Trail Center’s bay is fairly shallow so we ventured out to the main lake in search of anything that would bite.

Poplar is a tough lake to fish in June let alone through the ice in March, but I like a challenge. A few minutes into the first day of the contest I missed a good bite. Before the disappointment had time to leave my system—I did it again. These two squandered opportunities would be the only daytime bites I would have in the two days of the fishing contest.

As the sun set over Poplar Lake and the anglers packed up their equipment for the day, I started marking some fishy activity on the depth finder. The fish rose up a couple of feet from the bottom and bit with conviction, but it was just a little walleye, which I released.

The sun disappeared behind the trees and the depth-finder kept marking more fish moving around the bottom. The next bite was also aggressive but this time I felt some resistance when I set the hook. It was a 23-inch eelpout that ended up winning the contest. My feet were cold, it was dark, and the second eelpout that I caught relieved himself on my jacket, but it was worth it. I went home tired, cold, and smelly.

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