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Makin' Waves: Ice fishing isn't over yet

Well folks — another season of big fish has come and gone. Last weekend marked the end of another fishing season for pike, walleyes and bass in our area until the fun starts again in this spring. It wasn't a bad season, nor was it an unbelievable season. There were plenty of fish caught, and plenty of fish missed. There were opportunities passed up, but as the same time some unforgettable moments shared. The fish were biting fast and furious first ice, and they gradually but surely slowed to a trickle near the end of season.

For me, the season started on Lake Osakis early ice, standing outside in the brisk wind watching tip-ups and waiting for a toothy northern to take our sucker minnows. A good friend of mine was out there with me, sharing a laugh and solving life's problems until our hands became numb or the light faded until we couldn't see the flags anymore. And that is exactly how the season ended for us, standing out on the ice and sharing a laugh. Neither time were the fish biting fast and furious, but we never got skunked on fish or good laughs.

Now don't think that the ice fishing is all but done for the season, quite the opposite is true. In the next few weeks, as the warm wind begins to melt us out of or frozen slumber, it also kick starts the appetites of lots of panfish in local lakes. The crappies and sunfish start to school up more and more, and the big perch put on the feed bags. Not only do the panfish seem to stir as spring approaches, losing the four feet of snow on the lakes also makes it a heck of a lot easier to search for these tasty little buggers.

So as the sun slowly warms our frozen tundra and the March winds melt away the traces of winter's gloom, don't forget some of the best ice fishing of the season is still before us. Now is the time to gear up for it. Stop by the bait shop and pick up those new panfish jigs. Twist an arm or two to find out which lake is the hottest. Swing into some of the area sports shows to find out what new gadgets you cannot live without. Sharpen those auger blades and throw some lighter line on your jiggle sticks. The days of big pike are behind us for a few months, but the big slab panfish are just around the corner. Are you ready?