Searching for perch bites in the biting cold

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 12, 2014 - 12:27 AM

Frigid weather didn’t stop Leech Lake anglers from venturing outside fishhouses for perch.

view larger photos

  

“There’s a nice one!” said David Keen, his fishing rod quivering as he pulled a 9-inch perch from a hole in the ice. “That’s what we’re after.”

Keen, 66, of Winona, Minn., knelt on a frozen Leech Lake — a vast white expanse dotted with an occasional fish house — and coaxed beautiful green perch from the icy water 12 feet below. Under a blue sky, the temperature hovered around minus-15 degrees. But with nary a breeze it was almost balmy compared with the previous day, when a howling wind produced a minus-30-degree windchill.

So Keen and his son, Travis, 31, also of Winona, left their heated rental ice fishing shack and angled in the open, kneeling old-style, landing an occasional perch.

“We enjoy fishing outside,” the elder Keen said. “Seems like the only way to catch them is to move around.”

That’s exactly what Tim Campbell, co-owner of Brindley’s Harbor Resort, told me and two friends when we arrived at his resort for a two-day, midweek fishing outing recently on Leech. The lake is Minnesota’s third largest, and in recent years has been a winter hot spot for perch.

“When the fish are moving, you can sit in an icehouse and do pretty good,” Campbell said. “But if they’re not moving around, you have to go after them.

“Some of our guys won’t leave an icehouse, no matter what’s happening. We have others who won’t go in the icehouse. They know the more they move around, the more fish they will catch.”

We arrived during yet another arctic blast, one of many subzero cold snaps that have pummeled Minnesota this season. A howling north wind combined with minus-20-degree temperature sent the windchill to a skin-numbing minus-30 on our first afternoon and a minus-40 that evening.

The wind rattled our heated fishhouse and we were content to stare down the luminous holes, watching small perch mostly ignore our minnows, instead of fish outside in the brutal cold. Guides Kevin Peterson and Mike Bridges drove around the lake in their pickups, drilling holes and dropping lines, fishing from their trucks through an open door, trying to find schools of perch.

They caught a few, but the action — like the weather — wasn’t hot.

“It was brutal out there,” Bridges said as he popped into our shack. “The holes kept icing up and the snow blew in them. It’s unfortunate it’s this cold.” The fish also weren’t aggressive. “We were killing ’em here earlier,” he said.

Said Campbell: “That’s what winter really is, battling Mother Nature as much as finding fish.”

Less wind, more fish

But the next day, the wind subsided when we drove across the snow-drifted lake to our rental shack. Once we got settled we ventured outside, moving 50 to 100 yards away, trying a half-dozen spots. Keen and his son, who rented a fish house near ours, did the same.

“We enjoy coming up here,” he said, jigging his rod. “For us, it’s a chance to get together.”

They occasionally pulled a perch from the depths, and so did we, finding the action sporadic. But, given the weather, we were just happy to be catching fish.

“The last two days, no one did well,” Campbell said later.

  • related content

  • If you go: Brindley's Harbor Resort

    Tuesday February 11, 2014

    If you goWe paid $130 per night apiece at Brindley’s Harbor Resort for midweek lodging, fish-house rental, guide service, fish...

  • Stearns County looks at allowing e-bikes on trails

    Monday February 10, 2014

    Stearns Country looks at allowing e-bikes on county trails

  • Fishing guide Kevin Peterson, 31, of Walker, Minn., held up two nice perch — target fish for many winter anglers on Leech Lake.

  • The setting sun reflected off the ice and snow as Nate Rendulich pulled up an auger full of water after drilling an ice fishing hole on Leech Lake.

  • David Keen, 66, of Winona, Minn., pulled a perch through 3 feet of ice on Leech Lake. Though his group had rented a heated fish house, he had better luck moving around to different spots outside in subzero temperatures and even lower windchills. “It’s not bad if you’re dressed right,’’ he said.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco 4 Top 6th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 3rd Prd 3:28
Detroit 0
Montreal 0 2nd Prd 6:26
Chicago 0
Arizona 1 2nd Prd
Edmonton 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do Thursday in Green Bay?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close