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Last nights Post Bulletin story
12-22-2017, 05:33 PM
Post: #1
Last nights Post Bulletin story
Written by John Weiss.

A lone figure broke the white monotony on Willow Creek Reservoir late Sunday morning. It was Charles Barrows of Rochester, trying again to maybe catch a few panfish for a meal and get reacquainted with ice fishing.

He hadn't ice fished for a few years. He'd had plenty of gear, but one thing or the other, especially raw cold, had kept him off the ice.

On Saturday, he finally went back out. "It was such a nice day," he said. He was leery of going out on the ice because we haven't had any serious cold, but he was smart -- he followed some bigger men out, staying in their tracks. If they didn't break through, he felt safe.


The ice was solid, and he took home enough fish for a meal. Barrows was happy with that.

On Sunday, he was happy with the 5 inches of good ice, more than enough, if you watch where you're going. Willow Creek has some springs or areas of current that leaves weak ice, or no ice, in odd places. On Sunday, he was on solid ice and was catching fish.

They weren't big. "That one needs another neck size," he said of a small panfish he caught on jig and waxie. A perch needed a few more neck sizes, and it went back. In all, he caught about a dozen fish on one waxie, but all of them went back into the water.

Several decades ago, he said his only ice-fishing options were Lake Zumbro, Lake Winona, or Mississippi River backwaters. Now, Rochester has flood-control reservoirs with fish, as well as the pond at Foster Arend Park that is stocked with trout. Also, Cascade Lake on the west side of the city is becoming a popular option.

Barrows likes those added options, though the size of the panfish around Rochester seems to be getting smaller, he said. But he also knows the reservoirs have some big fish. When ice fishing, he said he's caught an 8-pound catfish, a 28-inch northern, a 14-inch perch and a 19-inch or bigger largemouth bass. Those were a great surprise. "You never know," he said.

A bit after noon Sunday, more and more anglers began walking out on the ice until about there were about 20 of them. Barrows kept catching small fish. Around 2:30 p.m. he called it a day.

He wasn't alone, said Department of Natural Resources Conservation Office Trent Seamans. He's been checking anglers around Rochester, and generally, "fishing has been fairly slow" and fish have been small. The two places he's seeing where you can catch bigger panfish are Kalmar ("the fish have been bigger and bigger every time I'm out there") and Chester Woods ("it has big sunfish if you know where to find them.")

All the reservoirs have big bass, he said. Seamans also reminded anglers of the usual caveat -- no ice is ever totally safe, so it's best to have a life jacket and ice picks with you all the time.

The reservoirs and Foster Arend Park have special regulations that limit the number of sunfish, crappies and perch one angler can legally keep in a day, but they are meant to spread out the harvest, not produce bigger fish, said Kevin Stauffer, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Lake City.

"They get so much pressure" that getting big panfish would be difficult. What happens is there is a hot bite on one reservoir for a year or two, then it tapers off and anglers move to another one, he said.

Some people have suggested dredging the reservoirs, believing they are filling in too much and hurting fishing. Stauffer said that decision would have to come from the joint powers board that oversees the reservoirs. And a bathymetric study done a decade ago on three reservoirs -- Willow Creek, Gamehaven and Silver Creek -- showed minimal sedimentation since they were finished in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The survey showed Gamehaven had a 0.5 foot of sediment with a maximum depth of 20 feet, Silver Creek had 0.3 foot with a 15.9 foot deep spot, and Willow Creek filled in 0.4 foot with a maximum depth of 16.5 feet.

What was even more fascinating was an electrofishing survey done in April, 2016 of Gamehaven. It showed what a lot of anglers already know -- a lot of small panfish with only one 0.25-pound crappie and bluegills averaging 0.17 pound.

The big news -- and biggest fish -- were largemouth bass. It found a lot of them and 14 were from 18 to 18.99 inches, five were 19 to 19.99 inches and three were 20 to 21 inches long.

The hardest thing in life is knowing which bridge to cross and which one to burn.
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12-23-2017, 10:04 AM
Post: #2
RE: Last nights Post Bulletin story
Even with the addition of the Cascade ponds, there just don't seem to be enough good fishing spots to support the sportsman population of our area.

Fish On!
Lew
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12-23-2017, 10:29 AM (This post was last modified: 12-23-2017 10:31 AM by Tom.)
Post: #3
RE: Last nights Post Bulletin story
I think if one considers what the Mississippi River and its backwaters offer there's plenty of good fishing relatively local. There are an awful lot of lazy ice anglers that feel every water should be full of bruisers yet don't want to put any effort into finding them. That river is 45 minutes away and what it offers in nearly limitless.

I'd bet that the Wabasha Marina is doling out some sumo crappies and perch about now.....don't ya think Ron?
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12-23-2017, 12:51 PM
Post: #4
RE: Last nights Post Bulletin story
Yes Tom, we are fortunate to have old man river nearby.
One doesn't have to be a fisheries expert to realize the ponds in the immediate Rochester area are very fickle and subject to radical changes primarily due to the pressure.

The hardest thing in life is knowing which bridge to cross and which one to burn.
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