Tips from the Pros
Spring Fishing Tips For Success on Sand Lake
by Charlie Worrath
Professional Guide with Minnesota Fishing ProsSpring is one of the best times of the year to fish successfully for all species of sport fish. The cause is two-fold. First of all, the long winter and the riggers of spawning have created huge appetites in the fish. Secondly, food sources are in short supply since baitfish populations have been eaten down throughout the winter and new food sources (such as fry of the year and insects) haven’t developed yet.Sand Lake is one of the top walleye lakes in northern Minnesota but due to the fact that it is part of a river system it also boasts a plentiful supply of all species native to northern Minnesota. Sand has a lot of shoreline with nice emerging weed lines, sharp breaks, rock and rubble points and a lot of mid-lake humps and bars. However, my favorite thing about Sand Lake is that the water clarity is only 4 or 5 feet. This makes fishing during spring as good as it gets no matter what time of day.Most people coming to this area and Sand Lake are in pursuit of the state fish, the walleye. Sand Lake has plenty of them! It has strong natural walleye reproduction but also benefits from an aggressive stocking program through both the DNR and the Sand Lake Association.The best presentation to attract walleye in the spring is a jig and minnow combination. The color of the jig should be dark such as reds, blues, blacks and oranges. Start with the lightest weight jig you can get away with taking into consideration the weather conditions. I use mostly 1/8 ounce jigs whenever possible. Make sure you tie the jig directly to the line – do not use swivels or other jewelry. The shiner minnow is very popular with anglers in this area. However, on Sand Lake I prefer to use a rainbow chub or just a regular chub. The reason for this is Sand Lake has an abundance of small to medium northern pike. By using a rainbow chub you eliminate the flash of a shiner and, therefore, you will eliminate many of the pike bites while minimally affecting your walleye bite. In theory, this helps your success rate since the more time you have your jig out of the water to take off northern pike – the less time your jig is in the water to catch walleye! Again, the jig/minnow combo is all you need for a fantastic springtime fishing adventure for all species of fish that inhabit Sand Lake.
While walleye is a great tasting and fun-to-catch fish, Sand Lake also has an abundance of larger than average crappie for this area. One pound plus crappie are very common. In the spring you will find crappie in the warmer shallows of the lake. This warmer water provides insect larvae for the hungry crappie before their spawn. On average, once water temps reach approximately 65 degrees the crappie begin to spawn. At this time you will find crappie in and around the pencil reeds and in the weed beds. For spring crappie your best bet is a slip bobber setup with a small jig tipped with a small crappie minnow. Remember to always keep a tight line.
A Word About Lakewood Lodge:
Whether you are seeking a fishing adventure or just relaxation I can assure you that a stay at Lakewood Lodge will be a very pleasurable outing for you and your family. Lakewood Lodge has all the modern conveniences of home and your hosts, Steve & Dani Casselman, are friendly and considerate people who will make your stay very memorable and enjoyable.
Sand Lake – A Summertime Fisherman’s Paradise
by Tom Neustrom
Professional Guide with Minnesota Fishing ProsSand Lake is another of those destinations in Northern Minnesota that offers fishermen countless angling opportunities. Fishing on Sand Lake really kicks into gear from June to September offering endless spring and summer angling opportunities.Situated in the heart of Minnesota’s premier walleye fishery, it’s no wonder Sand Lake continues to be true fisherman’s paradise. In fact, the outstanding walleye fishing puts Sand at the top of the list of great walleye fisheries. June brings about the start of very consistent fishing throughout the summer. Around that time the dispersal of fish from their spring spawning areas means that the Sand Lake walleye start to show up on the shoreline breaks and newly emerging weed beds. With a multitude of structure – finding the best locations to fish is not very difficult.With nearly 4,500 acres of water the big island situated in the center of Sand Lake is a great focus point. There are countless sunken islands, gravel points and numerous cabbage beds associated with the island. Once I’ve decided on a location to start, I will usually choose a jig and minnow combination as search bait. A 1/8 ounce Fireball jig from Northland Tackle with a shiner or chub is tough to beat. You’ll also find the walleye if you slowly troll the numerous weedlines, points and sunken islands or if you cast a #7 Shad Rap along a breakline. Another effective tactic is back trolling the edge of a sunken island using a slip rig with a juicy nightcrawler or leech. No matter which of these approaches you use there is almost always a hungry walleye ready to do battle.
One thing to keep in mind as the summer progresses and the water temperature rises is that anglers need to fish a little deeper. Most of the previous mentioned presentations will continue to work all summer long. Sand Lake’s diversified fishery will become evident as the many species found in the lake seek deeper water. If the walleye become inactive anglers can change focus to the plentiful crappie, northern pike and jumbo perch in the lake. Many years ago there were several crappie cribs put in Sand Lake by the DNR. Throughout the summer these cribs hold crappie, walleye and big perch. They are located in 15 to 22 feet and provide great sanctuary for game fish.
One additional species that can be found in great numbers are largemouth bass. Cast white or chartreuse spinnerbaits along one of the countless reed beds and hold on! Bass up to five pounds are taken yearly so make sure you sample the untapped largemouth bass fishing.
As you can see Sand Lake is a great summer fishing destination that will reward you with great fishing. See you on the water!
Fall Fishing on Sand Lake – Walleye, Northern, Perch, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Crappie & Panfish
by Jason Boser, Professional Guide with Minnesota Fishing Pros
Fall fishing on Sand Lake in Itasca County. What a great time of the year to be out on the water! It’s a time for enjoying the changing colors of the leaves, the smell of fall in the air, cool but not cold weather, wildlife all around and usually very active fish.
When I am fishing Sand Lake in the fall for walleye I usually look for big flats and bars that drop off into deep water. The structure needs to drop fast, not the usual slow sloping drops you would look for during the hot summer months. I like both weeds and rocks this time of the year. The weeds will be starting to die off so you need to find some that are still green as they will hold the fish. Sand Lake has an abundance of such structure. The nice thing about fall fishing is that when you target areas for walleye you will also catch northern pike, crappie and perch. When you find a perch or two, stay in that area awhile because there will usually be more. The perch in Sand Lake are world class with lots of them coming in at 11 to 13 inches and some even in the 14 inch range. The northern will be cruising the flats looking for food and you can expect to catch a few during every outing.
What should you use for bait on Sand Lake in the fall? I always start with a jig and minnow. A 1/8 oz. Northland Gumball is my first choice. I like a longer shank hook in the fall. If we have lots of wind or I am going fishing really deep water I will switch to a ¼ oz jig. I will pick a color that has a little flash to it – my favorite being Glow/Blue. I will try to find a shiner but as we all know that can be difficult in the fall of year so instead I use a Rainbow, light sucker or a chub. Just remember that in the fall the baitfish will be bigger so you want to use a bigger bait if possible. You can also use a crawler in the fall. Tie up a Lindy Rig with a crawler. At times this can be a deadly bait.
Now that we know where to catch walleye, perch and northern in the fall lets talk about one of my favorite fall fish to target, the crappie. They are schooling up this time of the year in the deep water off humps and deep-water dropoffs. You can cruise around on the edge of the deep-water drops or the multiple humps on Sand and look for schools of crappie on your depth finder. When you find them just throw out a marker and try and stay on them. Vertical jigging is the key. Drop down a 1/32, 1/16, or even as heavy as a 1/8 oz. jig tipped with a crappie minnow and let the fun begin. In the fall these fish are active. If you get the bait to them they will bite! When you are jigging for crappie you just never know what you will bring in. Walleye, northern pike, perch, smallmouth bass and even rock bass will be schooled up in the same deep water.
Last but surely not least is the bass. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are in Sand Lake. The smallies in Sand Lake are of average abundance and when you catch one it’s usually a dandy. Look for them on the edge of the deep rocks. Use a jig and minnow to get them to bite. Largemouth bass are a different story. There is a large population in Sand Lake and fall is the best time to go after them. You can do this two ways. Either cast a weedless jig, or a worm harness that will go through the weeds and bring it back over a drop. Or cast a floater and run across the tops of the weeds past the dropoff and you will find some good action.
So there you have it! Fall fishing on Sand Lake – the best there is!!! Good luck fishing…
A Word About Lakewood Lodge
I have worked with Lakewood Lodge for the past year. I can say I have seen them in action and you will have a hard time finding a more customer-oriented family than Steve and Danielle Casselman. Not only do they have a great spot to fish, swim, play or just relax, by the time you leave you will feel like part of the family. It is truly an Up North experience.
Fishing Tips For Itasca County’s 1,400+ Lakes
by Jeff “Cubby” Skelly
Professional Guide with Minnesota Fishing ProsI’m Jeff “Cubby” Skelly and I’ve been fortunate to have been born and raised here in the heart of the finest hunting and fishing area you can find in all of Minnesota. I’ve turned my passion for fishing into a full-time career as a professional fishing guide and have fished the area’s waters for the past 20 years. I’d like to share with you some of my fishing methods you can use to capitalize on the many different species of gamefish found here in Northern Minnesota.
Spring in northern Minnesota is a magical time. Most species are in a post-spawn state and are ready to put on the feedbag. Once the ice is gone and the sun begins to warm the water temperatures into the low 50’s, most fish will dwell in the shallower water to feed on the abundant spot tail shiner that comes to the shallows to spawn. Walleyes, northern pike and jumbo perch are all there to take advantage of this very short period when the shiners are plentiful and vulnerable.
From the middle of May to about the middle of June (depending on how warm our spring has been) you can find nearly any species you desire. For walleyes, look for water as shallow as 3 feet and as deep as 12 feet. Try to fish the windswept shorelines and probe the shallows with a jig and minnow to find active schools of fish. Always use a lead-headed jig just heavy enough to maintain contact with the bottom and try to keep an open mind. Let the fish tell you what they want. Some days they are really aggressive and you can’t do anything wrong. But there’ll also be days when, for instance, there is no wind and you need to use a real finesse approach. Remember, if the local bait dealers are still selling shiners it means that the shiners are still in shallow water and you can bet there will be game fish there, too; so take advantage of this short opportunity.
Summer in Northern Minnesota is a time of feast or famine for fish and anglers alike because it is a time of great change. Water temps are peaking and weed growth is at a maximum. This means that anglers have to think about deeper water habitats in addition to the shallow waters. With the advent of the GPS and the many fine lake maps available today, anglers can easily motor out to the deep water haunts. This is the time that I start heading out to the deeper water structures and I’d suggest you start your search there as well. Look for signs of bait fish and larger game fish on top of these areas and move to the edges of the structure. If you are not seeing schools of bait fish on your sonar, there won’t be many walleye or other game fish either. My top presentation used for deep water fish is a live bait rig. I usually start out with a 1/2-ounce slip sinker then tie on a barrel swivel. I add a 6- to 10-foot leader with a # 4 live bait hook tipped with a leech or crawler. Once I find a few fish on my radar, I drop that rig straight to the bottom. I like to fish the Lindy Rig as vertically as possible so that when I’m marking fish on my locator I know that my live bait is going right through the middle of the school of fish. A live bait rig in deep water is a deadly presentation for walleye; however, it does limit you to walleyes only. If you want to catch northern pike or perch that might also be present, try a jig and a minnow. Fish the jig as you would a live bait rig but move the jig up and down a bit to entice the fish to eat and then drop back down to the bottom. It’s important to continue to fish a jig as vertically as possible and to move your boat just fast enough to maintain contact with the bottom.
I’ve mentioned just a couple of successful methods for catching fish. I consistently use these tactics to fish practically any lake in this area and I’ve written this article with walleye, northern pike and jumbo perch in mind because of their popularity with anglers. There are many other species of gamefish in our northern Minnesota lakes as well – species like muskie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, sunfish and bluegill. These species can be found in area lakes in numbers that rival any other fishing destination in North America – Canada included! I love to fish all of them, but the Muskie is by far my favorite. These freshwater maniacs have given me many heart-stopping moments in my career on the water and offer anglers a real challenge.
Autumn in Northern Minnesota is a fabulous time of year when you can sit in your boat and almost see the leaves changing colors – it is nothing short of spectacular. As with spring fishing, fall fishing again finds the fish in transition. This time returning from their deep water haunts to the shallow water. You are likely to find large numbers of fish in small areas, and most often, they are more than willing to take your bait. With the nights getting colder and the water temperature beginning to drop, the fish will seek areas where weed growth is still green and producing oxygen. Check the areas where you found fish in the spring and fish the deep edge of the weed lines with a jig and a minnow. Walleyes, northern pike and perch will lay on the edge of the weed beds and wait for food to swim by. From the top of the food chain to the bottom, all species can be present and actively feeding, so it’s at this time of year that many trophy fish are taken. Don’t overlook planning your Minnesota fishing vacation for September and October because this time of year in Northern Minnesota the fishing is truly fantastic – with both quantity and quality a real possibility.
From Grand Rapids to Bigfork and Northome to Deer River, Itasca County and Northern Minnesota offer the angler world-class fishing opportunities, no matter what species of game fish you’re after. It’s the reason many anglers make Northern Minnesota their vacation destination year after year. You owe it to yourself to give us a visit up here in the thousand grand lakes area.