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

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Philadelphia 7
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1
Boston - LP: T. Layne 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 5
NY Yankees 8 Bottom 8th Inning
Detroit 3
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: Z. Wheeler 2
Chicago Cubs 5 Top 9th Inning
Cincinnati 7
Cleveland 2 Bottom 7th Inning
Chicago WSox 2
Minnesota 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Kansas City 2
Oakland 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Houston 0
Milwaukee 0 Top 5th Inning
San Diego 0
Los Angeles 0 Top 3rd Inning
Arizona 0
Miami 0 Bottom 1st Inning
LA Angels 0
Colorado 0 Top 1st Inning
San Francisco 0
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close