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OUTDOOR REPORT: Cold weather improves ice conditions but results in tougher fishing

Lake of the Woods

Subzero temperatures are making great ice, Lake of the Woods Tourism reported in its weekly update. The Pine Island, Bostic Bay and Morris Point areas have an average of 18 inches of ice, and resorts are letting out most vehicles and houses, Lake of the Woods Tourism said. In other areas, ice thickness varies more, so it is good to call ahead. Most resorts update Facebook pages as info changes.

Overall, fish along the south shore have spread out, which is typical for this time of year, Lake of the Woods Tourism said. Despite the cold temperatures, anglers still are managing to pick through different-sized fish to find limits of keeper walleyes and saugers. Bobbers and other "dead-stick" presentations have been the most productive tactic during the colder weather, and smaller jigs are working better than larger spoons. Best action is in 15 feet to 18 feet of water during the morning and evening hours and 24 to 30 feet in the middle of the day.

The Northwest Angle has good ice conditions where resorts have ice roads or trails, and fishing has remained good. Resorts are reporting 18 to 24 inches of ice in the places they are fishing. Best action is in 22 feet to 28 feet of water for walleyes and the occasional perch and sauger. Jigging spoons are working well in the mornings, while dead sticks with a jig and minnow are most effective in the afternoons, Lake of the Woods Tourism said.

The ice road from Young's Bay on the Northwest Angle mainland to resorts on Oak Island is plowed and in good shape, according to Sportsman's Oak Island Lodge.

Devils Lake

Ice conditions are improving with the onset of cold weather but remain highly variable, and anglers should use extreme caution, especially if venturing out with half-ton pickups, Woodland Resort reported Tuesday.

According to the report, Creel Bay had anywhere from 8 inches to 15 inches of ice, but several other places around the lake including the Towers, Six-Mile Bay and the middle portion of Creel Bay still had very limited ice—as little as 3 to 6 inches in some cases. Traveling with ATVs, snowmobiles or other lighter vehicles and frequently drilling holes to check ice thickness remains the safest option. Woodland has a limited trail system to Peterson's, Beer Can Island, the Retreat Center and Rocky Point.

Anglers have reported finicky fish during the cold weather, and a plain hook tipped with a live minnow or small gold tungsten jigs has yielded some of the best results. Some of the better reports have come from Creel Bay, East Devils Lake and Minnewaukan Flats, the report said.

Mark Bry of Bry's Guide Service said the fishing pattern hasn't changed much since last week, when anglers reported catching perch and walleyes in shallower water 20 feet or less and also out deeper in 20 to 40 feet of water. The key is to find active fish and stay on them.

Upper Red Lake

Walleye fishing has been slow since the onset of colder weather, West Wind Resort in Waskish, Minn., reported Thursday. Getting away from the crowds has been crucial to finding fish, and the resort has roads plowed out about 4½ miles, the report said. Look for fishing to improve with the warmer temperatures that are in the forecast.

Ski and trails report

• Buena Vista Ski Area near Bemidji: 12- to 36-inch base; no new snow in past seven days as of Jan. 2; not making snow. Info: bvskiarea.com.

• Detroit Mountain Recreation Area near Detroit Lakes, Minn.: 18- to 40-inch base; 7 inches of new snow in the past seven days as of Dec. 28; making snow. Info: detroitmountain.com.

• Lake of the Woods: Snowmobile trails are all marked from Wheeler's Point to Warroad, Minn., from Warroad to Oak Island and the Northwest Angle, and from Oak Island all the way to Baudette, Minn. The south shore of the lake has several spots of bare ice and anywhere from no snow to 8 inches of snow. There also is a lot of rough ice so snowmobilers should stay on the trails. Grooming is in progress.

• Grand Forks Greenway: Cross-country ski trails have drifted in a bit but remain in fair to good condition.

• Grahams Island State Park near Devils Lake: Cross-country ski trails are open and in fair condition; no new snow in the past week; total snow depth 8 to 10 inches.

• Turtle River State Park near Arvilla, N.D.: Cross-country ski trails are open and in good condition with a dusting of new snow in the past seven days; total snow depth 5 inches.

• Old Mill State Park, Minn.: Snowmobile trails were groomed and listed in good condition with a 4-inch base as of Dec. 27; local snow depth 9 inches.

• Lake Bronson State Park, Minn.: Ski trails are groomed and in good condition with a 4-inch base; snowmobile trails are fair with a 4-inch base but haven't been groomed; local snow depth 8 inches.

• Lake Bemidji State Park: Ski trails are groomed and in very good condition with a 3-inch base; snowmobile trails are in good condition and also have a 3-inch base; local snow depth 7 inches.

• Big Bog State Recreation Area near Waskish, Minn.: Snowmobiles are groomed and in fair condition with a 4-inch base; local snow depth 7 inches.

• Hayes Lake State Park, Minn.: Ski trails hadn't been groomed as of Dec. 28, but snowmobile trails were groomed and in fair condition with a 4-inch base; local snow depth 12 inches.

• Itasca State Park, Minn.: Ski trails are groomed and in good condition with a 4-inch base, and snowmobile trails are in fair condition; local snow depth 8 inches.

• Zippel Bay State Park, Minn.: Ski and snowmobile trails were groomed and listed in good condition with a 6-inch base as of Dec. 27; local snow depth 9 inches.

-- Herald staff reports

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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