Lake Winnie, formally referred to as Lake Winnibigoshish, is located in Northern Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest. It is a premier Minnesota ice-fishing destination where, every winter, fishermen come to sit on the ice in sub-zero temperatures and angle mostly for walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. A few specialized techniques can go a long way toward catching one of these popular fish on Lake Winnie’s frozen surface.
Walleye in Lake Winnie are one of the most popular fish to angle for. Fisherman will do best to fish for walleye in early evening just before sundown, according to Little Winnie Resort, an ice fishing service on the banks of the lake. Walleye are most active in the shallower waters, 15 to 20 feet in the early and late winter, when the fish are more active. During the mid-winter season, the fish are often more lethargic, slower to bite and between 20 and 40 feet below the surface.
In 2009 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported the average size for a walleye in Lake Winnie was 1.3 pounds. These fish are lethargic in winter and will take bait slowly, so it is necessary to pay close attention to line tension to detect a biting fish. Fishermen often jig for walleye, tugging at the line to make the lure appear more attractive to the fish. Jigging should begin with strong tugs and subtly diminish to light taps on the line.
Perch in Lake Winnie are somewhat smaller than other popular ice-fishing species, weighing on average 0.2 pounds according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Early in the season, the fish can be found in sections of the lake where the bottom is flat, often in the deeper waters. Once a perch is located others are likely nearby, as perch swim in schools. They generally feed with 1 foot of the bottom of the lake. A jig or spoon is recommended for catching perch. Once the perch begin biting the lure it is no longer necessary to return it to the lake bottom. The aggressive fish will come to the bait from the deeper water.
Northern pike, compared to the other popular ice-fishing species in Lake Winnie, are a larger species. They are reported to be two pounds or more. Sharp teeth and an overall aggressiveness require steel leaders on any line that is meant for a pike. Without a strong leader, the fish is likely to bite the line and return to the water.
Pike tend to travel alone and typically can be found closer to the surface, between 1 and 4 feet down. Large sharp hooks are recommended. Pike are known to hover in the weed beds and this is true in winter as well as summer. They will bite on nearly any lure so long as it looks edible or worthy of attacking. This may mean using jigs or shiny spoon lures to increase visibility in dark waters. Fishing near the Mississippi River will put you closer to weedy areas and increase your chances of attracting a northern pike out from the weeds along the banks. Use caution when setting up your shanty near the shoreline, as early and late season ice is thinnest along the banks.