NISSWA -- Traditionally this is the time of the ice fishing season when the northern pike bite slows and panfish start hitting. That pattern may emerge again this year, but don't put away your tip-ups or spears just yet.
Several Brainerd area bait shops report that some pretty nice pike have been taken in recent weeks. At S & W Bait north of Brainerd, for example, there are 10 photos of pike weighing seven-and-a-half pounds or better. The biggest is a 21-pound, 10-ounce beauty speared by Brandon Smith on Gull Lake this past Sunday.
Brad Baysinger has had plenty of luck on Round Lake this season, having landed pike weighing 10 pounds, 4 ounces, two 11-pounders, a 14-pound, 12-ouncer, and a 16-pounder. His son, Jesse, chipped in with a 9-pound, 12-ounce northern. Round also gave up northerns weighing 9-pounds, 6 ounces and 7 pounds, 8 ounces to Randy Midas and 11 pounds, 4 ounces to Mike Swanson.
As usual, Gull Lake was the walleye champ this season. Three walleyes weighing more than 12 pounds were weighed in at S & W Bait this winter. But that was back in December and January. Proprietor Sherree Wicktor said it's been awhile since a nice walleye came in and that most folks are after panfish.
"Yesterday we had lots of senior citizens in here buying waxworms, eurolarvae and crappie minnows," she said.
The biggest crappie brought into S & W so far was a 1-pounder taken Tuesday on North Long Lake by Brett Cote. There also was a photo of a 4-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass nabbed on North Long by an unidentified angler.
A visit to North Long revealed the usual quiet, mid-week scene. Plumes of smoke rose from several darkhouses. The only men on the ice at the west end were Nick Justin, St. Stephen, and his son Dale Justin, Brainerd. As of 9 a.m. they had caught just one crappie but it was a beauty weighing about 1 pound. Nick said he caught 15 nice bluegills Tuesday, but it took him all day to do it. The men also maintain a darkhouse on North Long but said the spearing was unusually slow.
"We got only three or four all winter," Dale said as he lifted a small bluegill from his hole and promptly returned it to the water. "But we set out tipups around the house and they did really well. We don't use live decoys in the house and that may be why we didn't see as many fish."
Meanwhile over on Round Lake all was quiet. Nary a fisherman could be seen from the public boat ramp off County Road 115, but the fog might well have shrouded anybody farther out than about 150 yards.
A stop at the Oasis in Pequot Lakes turned up some more nice photos. The most impressive catch in recent days was a 2-pound, 7-ounce crappie taken by Grant Walker on Upper Hay Lake. On that same outing he also took two largemouth bass weighing more than 3 pounds.
Indeed, ice fishing season isn't over yet.
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