Anticipating Great Lakes Ice

The anticipation is over. We are on the brink of fishable ice on the Southwest end of Lake Superior. If you know where to look, there is safer, fishable shore ice in places along the main lake, inside some harbors,and some thinner ice over deeper water where some risky individuals are already venturing out to. I spent some time on the edge of an ice pack looking down a hole through the thinner ice.

Ice Fishing Lake Superior Rainbow Trout

There were a few fish that could find their way through the underwater maze of vertical ice heaves to my house, but the good fishing took place at the edge of the pack where you can see that little black dot in the distance.


Big rainbows were cruising and circling around. I dropped my jig down provoking movement to entice one to bite. A rainbow would come in fast and bump it 3 or 4 times before taking it. A smaller fish, maybe 3 or 4 lbs. I couldn’t get my jig back down fast enough and already had more big rainbows coming in and swiping at it. Another came in fast and sucked it right in. This one was would go maybe 5 or 6lbs and made some good runs before making it through the hole. I lost another, I missed a few more. Then another came screaming in taking up my jig and through the ice he came. It was a good day. I have dreams about days like this, watching down a hole through the ice as these giant rainbow trout circle around, waiting for one to take.

Ice Fishing Lake Superior Rainbow Trout

Ice Fishing Lake Superior Rainbow Trout

Ice Fishing Lake Superior Rainbow Trout

Winter Jigging For Lake Trout

January 31 – with a high of 20F and the wind blowing out of the North, you wouldn’t think it would be a very nice day to take the boat out on Lake Superior and try jigging deep for some lake trout on the bobbing sticks. But for the die-hards that do it, it was a perfect day to be out there.

Winter Jigging Lake Superior Lake Trout

We got out there dropped anchor, and watched the 30lb test stainless steel wire spool off our hoops as our jigs dropped to the bottom. As soon as we got down to the bottom, we had fish on. It was one of those days.

The wind would pick up and we would think about heading in soon, then it would die down and we would stick it out a little longer. It was gusting when our anchor stopped holding us in position and we were now drifting. Dropping my line back down, I stopped momentarily to let it go tight, only it didn’t just go tight, it started pounding hard. Something big had taken my jig while it was dropping down the water column. I don’t think it made it too far down either.

I worked it up the water column slowly and carefully but wasn’t gaining too much because of the heavy head shakes at the other end. This fish would just pull too hard and the wire was slipping through my fingers. Slowly I gained on it a little at a time, pausing every so often as it just pounded on the end of my line keeping me from hoisting it up any further.

As it approached a depth at which we could see it, all I could see was some white flashing off the belly. I was thinking the whole time it was a real decent fish. Then I got the head up to the top and it looked like a pig floating in the water. It didn’t even fit in the landing net. We scooped it into the boat. Forty-one inches. Another epic day in the books for sure!

Winter Jigging Lake Superior Lake Trout

Winter Jigging Lake Superior Lake Trout

State Record Bound

The search was on for a good trout lake and Drew and I decided to try our luck with some splake. Arriving at our destination early in the morning, the drilling and setup began. With holes drilled and the house popped up, the fishing was on and it didn’t take long to start catching some splake. Drew caught a pretty decent fish so I decided to snap a quick picture of it laying on the ice before he slipped it back down the hole.

As I was trying to snap a picture and he was trying to get it to lay still and stop flopping, a bit of drag pulled off my reel a couple of times. I hesitated, trying to get that picture as Drew’s fish finally lay still. I figured it was just another smallish splake that grabbed my jig and gave a couple of yanks. Then my drag began peeling off the reel and not stopping. I grabbed my rod and quickly realized I was into something big. Neither one of us had expected this. I was beginning to wonder what I could have at the end of my line. An otter? Muskrat? Did some other species of fish find its way into this lake?

I worked it back towards the hole, but did not gain much before it started peeling out on another marathon run. My drag was burning off the reel. Finally it slowed and I began to work it back towards the hole again. The line angle was completely off to the side right under the ice towards the deepest hole in the lake. I began fighting the fish with my rod tip down the hole to keep it from hooking on the ice edges at it swam in large circles around the house. Each time I got the fish closer to the hole it would peel off on another long hard run. It probably made 7 or 8 of these ridiculous runs before we finally got a glimpse of my swivel. We then knew it was close…and then we saw A TAIL!

It was BIG. We could not believe this thing existed in this lake. Finally the body of the fish was below us and we were both shaking and hollering. I got the head in the hole and after about 10 minutes of pumping the fish on 4lb test line, I was able to pull it up on the ice. We were both in disbelief. I immediately knew it was close to the record so I put a tape on it. Twenty-nine inches. Four inches shy of the record. We later weighed it at around 10lbs. The Minnesota state record is just over 13lbs.

This day we will remember forever.





Long, fishless hours on the ice

It was a slow day today ice fishing on Lake Superior. At least it wasn’t a skunk. There was just enough action to keep some interest and not fall asleep in the fish house. The herring schools were coming through all over the place in the deep water, and I finally managed to pick up a nice brown trout in shallow. It was a mixed bag, which is typical for this area. Fish caught included herring, whitefish, brown trout, and splake.

Ice Fishing Lake Superior Herring

Ice Fishing Lake Superior Brown Trout

Eelpout Fun

Eelpout fishing on the St. Louis River takes place around Christmas and New Years every year. During this time is when they swim up river from Lake Superior to do their spawning thing. If you time it right, the fishing can be quite good. For me, the bite has started right at 5pm as it gets dark and lasts for about an hour after dark. Sometimes the action is so fast you can’t get your lure back in the water fast enough after unhooking your previous fish.

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

I like to use something big that glows in the dark and tip it with a minnow or part of a minnow.

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

These fatties have a lot of belly. Most of the meat you will find along the back.

I fish about one or two feet off the bottom and watch my vexilar for the big red line rising off the bottom. A lot of times they will approach your bait and you may not feel anything as they are sitting there sucking it in. Most times there is the tell-tale “tap”.

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

A frog? A toad? Salamander? No, that’s a pout!

They don’t always fight hard with big runs pulling out line. A pout will typically wiggle and twist as you lift it up towards the ice. The trick is getting them through the hole while they are twisting and wriggling around under the lip of the ice.

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

Phil with the first eelpout of his career.

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

A pout slaying.

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

I have tried a couple of different ways cooking the eelpout. Either pan-fried in butter with just some salt and pepper, or boiled in 7up or Sprite, then dipped in melted butter. I enjoyed both. Cube up the meat for both of these methods. Do a little search and you will find other recipes to try as well.

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota

Cooking eelpout

eelpout fishing St. Louis River Lake Superior Minnesota


[ig_tab_section][tab title=”Poor Man’s Lobster” id=”tab-1″]Two burbot fillets cut into chunks
Two quarts water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt Juice of one lemon
Melted butter, and additional lemon juice fr dipping purposes

Combine water, salt, sugar and lemon juice in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Then drop in the fillet chunks and boil, just until the fish rises to the surface. Serve with melted butter and lemon juice. Leftovers make an excellent Faux Lobster Salad.[/tab] [tab title=”Burbot Turnovers” id=”tab-2″]Two burbot fillets
12 mussels
Two ounces flour
Four fluid ounces cooking oil
One egg
Three tablespoons water
Two ounces flour
Two tablespoons butter
Four ounces shelled garden peas
One onion
One carrot
One bay leaf

Make dough with the flour, oil, egg, water and a pinch of salt. Then let mixture blend for a time in a cool place. Cook burbot and mussels in salted water, along with the carrot, onion (sliced) and bay leaf.

After being steamed, remove mussels from their shells, chop finely and mix with the burbot. Cook garden peas in salted water.

In a saucepan, make a thick Bechamel sauce (a white sauce made with butter, flour, cream and seasons-named for Louis de Bechamel, King Louis XIV’s steward), then cook for five minutes.

Roll the dough and cut out rounds four inches in diameter, moisten the edges and place a spoonful of filling in the center of each round. Fold over the pastry and seal the edges. Deep fry, drain, and serve with parsley.[/tab] [tab title=”Burbot Veracruz” id=”tab-3″]Four fillets
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
One each, shopped red and green bell peppers
One chopped yellow onion
Teaspoon chopped garlic
One 15-oz. can roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and cayenne pepper
12-ounce can tomato juice
1/2 cup Spanish olives
1/2 cup fish stock

Season fish with salt, pepper and lemon juice. In a skillet, heat two tablespoons vegetable oil and sear fish for about four minutes per side. Then set fish aside.

In a large saucepan, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add peppers, onions and garlic and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add roasted tomatoes, cumin and cayenne pepper and cook for another five minutes. Then add remaining ingredients, simmer 15 minutes, and fish, head thoroughly and serve.[/tab] [/ig_tab_section]