By Steve Carney
There’s no doubt that Upper Red Lake has become a go-to ice-fishing destination during the early ice-fishing season as we await safe ice statewide. I just returned from Upper Red having had amazing results.
I can’t remember ever having a day like I experienced. The walleyes were aggressive and plentiful.
When my group arrived at a southern resort, we surveyed the portables on the ice and stopped counting at 234. They were spread out east to west along the first break, over 7 to 10 feet of water.
My fishing instincts kicked in, and I knew in order to be successful we would have to venture farther out, into deeper water, to get away from the huge clusters of portable fish houses. I had a buddy already on the ice who figured this out a day before I got there, so we were on the same page.
With 7 inches of ice beneath us, we strapped on ice cleats and hoofed it out to the first mile. We bypassed the crowds and headed farther north – at least another half-mile.
Soon, we were all by ourselves over 14 feet of water and began fishing around noon.
I had a 20-incher right off the bat and had constant action all day long. It’s a good thing the limit is three walleyes, because on this day they were striking everything I threw at them. Color didn’t matter, lure choice didn’t matter – it was lights out!
Clouds rolled in just before we walked out, and I knew the timing was perfect.
There seems to be a good population of walleyes from 18 to 20 inches in Upper Red. They were the most common catch. These fish hit so hard and fast that you almost never “marked” them on your electronics. I marked only one walleye that didn’t bite all afternoon. The rest were ferocious.
Because this fishing destination is so popular, you really have to venture away from the crowds to be successful. When you have major concentrations of anglers in 7 to 10 feet of water, this pressure will push the walleyes out deeper.
Soon, ATVs will be coming and going from these community spots and the commotion will be even greater. The good news is that Upper Red has a lot of room and you can get some privacy because this huge body of water has multiple areas where the walleyes roam.
I often dropped many fish at the hole, and if this would have happened elsewhere in Minnesota, you would be grieving for days. Not here. You laugh it off because you’ll get a bite again within 10 minutes. It’s that good.