by Bob Jensen
There are so many outstanding ice-fishing opportunities across the Midwest, but one location that has become a favored destination of mine and of many others is Big Stone Lake in west-central Minnesota. Actually, the east shore of the lake is in Minnesota, the west shore is in South Dakota. Big Stone is a wide spot in the Minnesota River. It’s an outstanding fishery whenever seasons are open, but lately the perch bite on Big Stone under the ice has been getting a lot of attention, and there’s a reason for that: The perch are plentiful and abundant. You may have to look around a while to find them, as perch can wander quite a bit. Once you find the area they’re hanging in though, action can be fast.
My first ice-fishing trip of the year in 2014 was to Big Stone. We arrived at Big Stone in mid-afternoon during a warming trend. We were told that the bite had been good, but it was coming in flurries. The perch would move in and we would catch them, then they would move on, only to come back in twenty or thirty minutes.
We drilled a bunch of holes in eight to ten feet of water. We fished a hole longer than we usually would, because we knew that the perch would eventually come through. However, after ten minutes of not seeing a fish on the sonar, we moved. Fished again for ten minutes, if no action, we moved again. Finally, we found a group of perch, and they were biters.
We used eighth ounce Buck-Shot Rattle Spoons: The new UV Pink Tiger was the best. Some of us tipped the spoons with spikes: I used an Impulse Minnow Head. The Impulse caught fish as good as the live bait. I caught more fish per bait, and got my bait back down to the fish quickly. However, when the fish were really hot, I caught them with nothing on the spoon. Those are aggressive fish!
On my most recent trip to Big Stone we tried a variety of baits. They got the fish’s attention better than anything. When we first got to a new hole, we would pound our baits on the bottom. In the underwater world, this pounding really gets the fish’s attention. Pound the bait three or four times, then lift it a foot or so above the bottom. Pounding disrupts the bottom and creates a little cloud of silt or whatever the bottom is made of. You want your bait above the cloud so the fish can see it.
Some of the fish would come off the bottom and look at the bait. If they didn’t take it, we lifted the bait higher. Many of the perch were three feet off the bottom when they hit. When the perch became conditioned to darting baits we switched to eighth ounce Buck-Shot Rattle Spoons again and usually caught a few more.
Big Stone is like any lake as far as technique. Keep moving until you find the fish, and then keep trying different bait colors, sizes, and actions until you find what the fish want. Once you do, the bite will be on and you’ll quickly learn why Big Stone Lake is such a favorite among ice-anglers.
Visit bigstonelake.org or call 320-839-3284 for ideas on lodging, bait, rentals, and all the other things that can make an ice-fishing trip to this hot perch fishery successful.
PHOTO CAPTION—Mike Frisch and a Big Stone Lake Perch. Perch this size are typical in Big Stone Lake.
To see all the newest episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television series, new fishing tips and articles from the past, go to fishingthemidwest.com