First and foremost, there is never “safe ice” so always venture with care and never travel on ice you are uncertain about. The ice conditions in the Brainerd area very heavily from lake to lake. For example on the Whitefish Chain, we have found ice as thick as 20 inches and as thin as 8. Gull Lake is in the same condition. When you get towards the deeper water, the ice thins out drastically. This year, the larger lakes seem to have a bunch of pressure ridges in areas that normally don’t have them and are very large. Use extreme caution when approaching a pressure ridge. They are very dangerous. I have witnessed snowmobiles dropping through pressure ridges. Most of the smaller lakes are fairly solid with most being 15-20+ inches of ice and are quite safe.
Keep in mind, some of our lakes now have a large amount of water on the ice from the weight of the wet snow followed by rain. If you are going to travel in a vehicle on areas of a lake that have not been traveled, make sure you have a shovel, tow strap and a buddy to follow you to pull you out. I have been stuck several times exploring. It is a very real possibility you will be getting stuck.
Fishing has been very good in the Brainerd Lakes area. Walleyes are always hit and miss this time of the year with some days being really good and others being a skunk. For whatever the reason this year, walleye fishing has been hot and continues to be. One thing is consistent however, most of the biting is done during the low light periods. Lots of fish are being taken off of Gull Lake in the 18-25 foot range with some being found even deeper. Walleyes on North Long have been going pretty well on the main lake section in the 14-20 foot range. Round is still hot and we found fish in the 22-28 foot range. The best lures we are finding are flutter spoons like a Clam Leech Flutter Spoon in the 1/4 oz. size tipped with a minnow head, dead sticking a fat head or minnow style baits like a Salmo chubby darter.
Panfish are going crazy just like they always do this time of the year in the BLA. It really depends on the lake where we are finding the fish. The smaller lakes, we are finding both sunfish and crappies in the basin holes. The larger lakes, we are finding fish on the weediness as well as weed flats. Jigging spoons and tungsten jigs tipped with a plastic or maggots have both been great.
There is a pretty good night crappie bite happening on most of the larger lakes. The crappies will move out of the weeds and into a deeper basin area to feed in the evenings. Glow jigs with crappie minnows has been the goto.
Pike fishing and spearing is pretty good right now. Most fish own the larger lakes are being found on the edge of the weed lines or suspended in with the panfish in the smaller lakes. Hard to beat a light northern sucker this time of the year.
Get out there and enjoy the season. Brainerd has been blessed with great fishing for many species!
Nate Berg Fishing Guides