I woke up yesterday morning in Ottertail Lakes Country to find that about 2 inches of snow had fallen in the night. By the time the sun had set, there were about 6 inches of snow on the yard! What the? Even for the folks that love an extended ice fishing season, winter is getting a little long. It’s nice to get out and ice fish in late March and early April because the pan fishing continues to get better, but by this point most years, we’ve had some degree of ice degradation. The surface ice becomes rotten and softer and there is less over-all volume to drill through. Not this year. We still have solid ice and lots of it. Over-night fish houses are still comfortably camping out on the ice, which means the access points are still in good shape and haven’t been beat up by water and sun light. However, keep in mind that with the lengthening of days, fish will continue to satisfy their biological and physiological needs and urges. What does that mean? It means that they need to keep feeding. Even though our winter is sticking around longer than we’d like it to, all wild life is responding to the sun’s intensity—it’s brighter, rises higher in the sky, and stays around longer each day. Panfish are feeding right now around Ottertail Lakes Country, but you might have to look around a while to find them. You also might have to fish longer to identify when the best bite time is. Predator species like northern pike and bass still have the say so. If the big fish are feeding hard mid-day, panfish will be timid and difficult to catch—but then they’ll have an intense feeding period just before dark–or when the large fish take a recess. These are things that are particular to individual lakes—each lake will have it’s own pattern and rhythm and those rhythm’s will change as our winter season slowly wanes. Here’s a spring-time tip: keep an eye out for fish that are higher in the water column. It’s common, in spring, to have fish just a foot or two beneath the ice sheet (especially crappie). It’s a tricky location—Vexlars and electronics won’t pick them up because they’re too close so you’ll just have to angle and watch your bait (sight fishing). When your bait disappears, that means it’s in a fish! My guess for ice-off in the Ottertail Lakes area is May 5th. I hope that I’m wrong and that it comes off before then. I thought I’d include photos that highlighted open water fishing.