Early Season Panfishing


Take a look at the photo of my daughter.  We were fishing a back bay of a lake about 2 weeks after the ice came off.  Notice the bare trees and dead cattails in the back ground.  Also, notice the depth setting on Mae’s bobber–it’s not very deep.  This is the time of the spring that I get excited about, because the panfish are no longer glued to shore.  In fact, in this case, the fish had retracted away from the shore line and were blending in with submerged weeds in about 3-5 feet of water.  There were fish closer to the shoreline, but the larger sunfish and crappie were about 20-30 feet out from shore.  When the fish are further away from the bank, they don’t scare as easily when you’re fishing for them and they don’t bolt every time a one or two day cold snap comes through the area.  I love taking the kids fishing in back bays.  It’s easy to duck out of the wind and stay warm which makes it easy for the kids to cast.  One thing to keep in mind when you’re using bobbers,  especially when you have kids along, is to be sure that they keep the line 90% tight.  If there is a large “balloon” of line between the bobber and fishing rod–it’s impossible to set the hook when the bobber goes down.  I always have my kids and fishing guests, reel a few times immediately after they cast out and the bobber hits the water–it draws the line tight so they can get a hook set when they get bit.   Good luck fishing the warming back waters this week–it’s going to be getting good!  Fish Good. By Ross Hagemeister


Early Ice Out–Nice

I love early ice out.  I love seeing the water in motion after watching it stand idol for 4 months.  Also, seeing lakes in their pre busy-summer state is very peaceful.  There’s no noise or commotion and the shoreline is in pure form–it’s not dotted docks and lifts and pontoons and jet skies and gadgets.   Also,  I think shorter winters are good for me now (I must be getting old).  My ice fishing service is cool and good and I’m good at it and my guests have a nice time, but it’s not open water guiding.  Open water guiding is who I am.  After 22 years of it, it’s what I am.  I’m not really sure who else to be on the water?  The 2017 will be my 22nd season–already.  It seems like I was just starting, and just learning how to guide.  Now I have folks calling me and telling me they can’t make it anymore; that we’ve been fishing together for 20 years and they have finally gotten to old to get here–or are dying or are dead.  Those are sad phone conversations, and it’s been happening often the past couple of years.  They are usually older guys and they cry when they tell me they can’t make it anymore–they love it here.  These are ends to eras–mine and theirs.  Time flies.

Any way, I’m looking forward to getting the 2017 year rolling.  I ordered my new Lund Boat and Mercury Motor, and am looking forward to being sponsored by Berkley this season.  My favorite fishing rod as a kid was a Berkley Lighting Rod.  I still have it–in my fishing archives.  Skip forward to present. . . . and my favorite fishing rod is the Berkley Heritage series.  I love those rods.  The Heritage is priced right and have a great feel and are strong and sensitive.  The 6′ Med Light spinning is super versatile.  I use them for walleye, small mouth bass, crappie and sunfish.  They are great rods.  Anyway, I’ve loved Berkley gear and line and lures and rods forever, and now I get to be a part of it–it’s awesome and I’m grateful.

For fishing this spring, it’ll be an extended panfishing season.  Sunfish and crappie will be entering the shallows soon and good fishing will soon follow.  Get your boats ready.  Make sure your batteries are good (make sure they hold a charge), and get your rods and reels ready with some new Trilene line—it’s fishing time.  Fish Good, By Ross Hagemeister, Meister Guide Service.

The Ice is Melting–It’s Time To Prep For A New Season

Hello anglers everywhere. We have a great forecast this week, unfortunately it’s the perfect forecast for ice melting rather than for fishing. The shorelines of the lakes throughout Ottertail Lakes Country look ominous. The ice seems to be sinking rather than washing ashore. All being said, ice fishing is all but over in Ottertail County. It’s time to gear up for opening water fishing. Bank fishing is just around the corner, which I think is a great approach for early-ice-out panfish. First-ice-out panfish really crowd shorelines in ultra shallow water for warmth and I think it’s easier to approach them from the shoreline as you can cast beyond them and retrieve your bait back to them. When you cast at shallow fish from the boat, you’re more likely to spook them with splashing bobbers, etc. Spool up your “light action” poles with some fresh Berkley Trilene XL. I like 6 lb test in the spring from shore. It casts well (even into the wind) and if you get caught on some grass or small twigs from shoreline shrubs or small trees, you can pull your tackle out—hopefully. If you use 2 or 4 lb test lines, which work well for fussy panfish, you’ll never get your tackle back if you get stuck.  Also, think about using Berkley Gulp and Berkley Power Bait for bait options, as they can endure strong whip-casts when you’re trying to get your baits further away from shore.  Live bait like crappie minnows and worms are good baits but often fly off the hook when casting and rip off when pulling them through shoreline grass.
It’s our fishing down time everyone! Keep busy with getting your boats and trolling motors ready, make sure you have current fishing licenses and current registrations for the boat—it’s maintenance time! Also, it’s a perfect time to read through the 2017 fishing regulations. Check for new rules and regulations and for special regulations specific to your favorite lakes. Also, take some time and learn more about new aquatic invasive species infestations in Ottertail Lakes Country. Unfortunately, the county saw more infestations in 2016 so be sure you know where those are to help prevent their spread into non-infested waters. It only takes a few minutes! Thank you and have a great week. By Ross Hagemeister,

Wrapping Up The Ice Season Around Ottertail Lakes Country

Happy spring ice fishermen! Ice fishing in Ottertail Lakes Country has come full-circle for the 2016-2017 season. I found myself out for one last try yesterday—carefully. I entered the ice just as I enter it in December every year—very carefully. I stepped out onto the lake and hopped up and down, and drilled a few test holes and found my auger and it’s dull blades drilling through the ice effortlessly. The ice was rotten from top to bottom and there wasn’t much left. The ice had degraded, even more, than the last time I was out. Once the sun starts making a direct overhead connection with it, the ice rots quickly—even if the temps aren’t real warm. That’s why the ice, inevitably, goes away in the spring even if the spring isn’t real warm. I left the ice yesterday, went home, and put my ice fishing gear away for the year. When the ice rots this time of year, it can actually degrade while you’re out fishing and fishermen can actually have a tough time getting off the ice. All in all, it was a great ice fishing season in Ottertail Lakes Country. We had good ice for most of the season and little snow fall to impede travel and to make messy lake-surface conditions. I’m already looking forward to next ice season. Moving forward: I’m guessing that the ice will start coming off of the lakes in Ottertail County in a week to 10 days. That means, fishing from boats isn’t too far away! Get the boat out, check the battery, get it tuned up and geared up because you’re going to need it pretty soon. I better get outside and make my fire—it’s a great day to boil maple sap into maple syrup! Have a great first week of spring! By Ross Hagemeister

Fishing Reports/Stories/More Fishing Stuff

Good morning “Fish Good” blog readers.  I was just looking through the “Fish Good” blogging that I’ve done in the past.  I’m not embarrassed to say that I like to read stuff that I’ve written, especially after being away from it for a while.  Anytime we create something, I think it’s ok to sit back and like it–or not like it for that matter.  Anyway, I’ve been busy raising kids and running a super busy guide service.  I’ve been blogging for Ottertail Country Tourism Association’s website!  That’s kind of crazy.  I have my own blog on my own site and I write for someone else’s site?  I decided a year ago that I was going to use my fishing reports and articles that I’m writing for the other web site and put them in my blog too.  It’s taken me a year, and deviating from this morning’s chores, to actually do it.  After reading my other blog postings this morning, I felt sad that I had stopped writing, and I was blasted by the fact the I hadn’t submitted anything on the blog since 2013–holy crap!  Time flies!  Now it’s 2016 and I’ll try to at least keep a modest writing pace for this blog.  I’ll be adding weekly reviews of fishing and current conditions in and around Ottertail Lake’s Country–where I reside–and I hope to continue talking about graph images and other cool things that seem to come up as conversation topics when I’m out and about.  I hope everybody enjoys the writing.  Stay tuned. Be patient.  As I mentioned back in 2013, I’m not a “Techie” person and I actually have to learn again how to submit photos and images.  I look forward to being a part of your weekly and daily reading routine and hopefully you get some enjoyment from it–and learn a little too.

Ross Hagemeister, Meister Guide Service

More views from my 788



I’ve finally finished my ice fishing season.  It was a pile of work–which made for good fishing and good guiding–but now I get to do some office work and writing.  Once I get back in the boat in May, I don’t have a chance to write.  Check this image out.  It’s one of my favorites of last the 2013 season!  I was working with my color palate options on the graph and I really liked this option for taking pictures because it cut down on the glare and reflection.  The only trouble I had with this selection was that I needed more sensitivity to get the imaging that I wanted so I didn’t completely convert to grey color.  The overall image was very “simulator” looking.  It’s one of those easy-to-read graphings.  There are a school of walleye in the middle of the screen, and they are doing some moving.  How can I tell?  Notice the streaking by a couple of the marks.  Graphs can pick up movement.  It’s a matter of interpretation, of course, but it is possible.  It’s also easy to understand why the walleye are moving.  Notice the large swirl of bait directly over them.  It’s easy to imagine what’s going on down there.  We caught the fish in this school on crawlers.  I usually choose to troll through schools, make wide pokey swings, and return through the fish about 10 minutes later.  If I don’t need to sit on fish, I won’t.  Sitting directly on a school, no matter the depth, seems to annoy the fish and scatter them faster.  If you troll through groups they tend to stay tighter longer–hence the bite stays more intense which means you’re going to hook more fish.  I feel it increases your catching percentage by about 100%.  Fish Good.  Ross Hagemeister

Keeping first-ice fishing safe

It’s that time. Seasons are changing from cool to cooler. Many people find the onset of winter as a bad thing. Fishermen, however, do not. Ice fishing is a great sport and is really its own sport–separate of it’s summer counterpart. Because ice fishing is much-anticipated we are very excited and can’t wait to get on the lake. First ice is, after all, the best walleye fishing of the season. Be careful. Assess the ice, and enter it for the first time with great caution. Wear a life vest, bring a length of rope, and some ice grippers, an ice chisel to test ice, and most importantly let some one know where you are. Chip a hole in the lake every 50 feet or so the check for ice quality and thickness. Walk slowly and carefully and look for ice thinner then 4 inches. If you chip a hole in the lake that appears to be less then 4 inches. Walk back to shore on the same path you walked out on and get in your vehicle and drive home. The first 7-8 inches of ice grows about 1 inch a day if the overnight temps are below zero degrees. Once the ice reaches 8 inches it slows it’s growth a little bit (under similar conditions), as 8 inches acts as it’s own insulator. If it’s very cold (minus ten to minus twenty) the ice will grow 1 1/2 inches a day for the first week–but those perfect ice making conditions are rare. Keep in mind too, that not all lakes freeze the same way, so treat each lake like a new event, and excersize caution accordingly. Also, note that lakes change how they freeze from year to year. One year they freeze shut in a single day while other years it may take two to three weeks for a lake to freeze completely. Spring action and snow cover are the enemy and will delay safe-ice and growth by nearly a month in some cases. Laziness seems to be the biggest hurdle in ice checking. Most folks just don’t do it because it takes time and energy. Throwing a rock at the lakes edge isn’t good enough. Get safe. Explore the first-ice cautiously. When you’re out on the lake for the first time and you’re standing on the ice, alone, take note of the solitude of the moment. It’s fabulous. Standing on first-ice is a miracle. Just be careful not to ruin the miracle by being lazy and in a hurry. One final note of caution. Be your own researcher. Don’t rely on other’s ice reports to make it safe. And in the same stroke, don’t let someone else’s careless mistake keep you from the ice–it’s a great sport but you need excersize caution on first-ice.
My personal first-ice exploration hikes on Ottertail Lake are usually about 5-10 miles long. I try to map out the soft spots on the lake as soon as I can so I know where the ice-making may be sluggish as the ice thickens and/or if it snows, covering the soft-spots and then it’s difficult to tell where it’s safe as we begin driving ATV’s etc. I spend about 3-7 days checking Ottertail lake ice and mapping and walking non-stop. It’s imperative for me to know what’s out there and at what pace the ice is growing. I commit huge amounts of time and energy to safety–lots of sweat. But it’s worth it because it makes the first couple weeks of ice fishing fun and productive. Have a good time, be careful, and catch some fish. Ross Hagemeister, meisterguideservice.com